AUSTIN — Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children, and the Texas Department of Transportation is issuing a call to action to parents and caregivers to ensure they are using and installing child car seats correctly.

While most people believe their children are properly buckled up, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out that 46 percent of all car seats are misused. TxDOT is encouraging parents and caregivers to sign up for a free child car seat check-up at any of its 25 district offices located throughout Texas.

“Proper use of car seats offers the best protection for children in the event of a crash,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said. “We are making a concerted effort to make sure parents have their children securely buckled in the appropriate car seats, and that those seats are correctly installed.”

TxDOT’s free safety seat inspections are available throughout the year and take about 30 minutes. To schedule a seat check-up with a TxDOT Traffic Safety Specialist, visit SaveMeWithaSeat.org and enter your ZIP code to find the nearest TxDOT district office. Drivers also can find out if a child should be in a rear-facing, forward-facing or booster seat, and get other child passenger safety tips by visiting the website.

Last year in Texas, 62 children younger than 8 years old died in traffic crashes; 16 were unrestrained at the time of the crash. Among children ages 8-12, 56 died in traffic crashes that same year; 21 were unrestrained at the time of the crash.

According to NHTSA, child car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers. TxDOT reminds drivers that Texas law requires all children under 8 — unless they are taller than 4 feet, 9 inches — to be in a car seat whenever they ride in a passenger vehicle. Failure to properly restrain a child can result in a ticket of up to $250. Children under age 13 should ride in the back seat, properly secured in a seat belt or safety seat.

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