As parents, we deal with car seats daily as we rush off to get our children to school. Child safety seats and booster seats may seem like a hassle, but it's important to know how to use them properly to protect children.

Statistically, one out of two people killed in motor vehicle crashes in Mississippi is not buckled up. As adults we need to know which child safety seats to use and how to install them correctly.

Car seats are used to protect our children. If they are not installed correctly, however, they can't do what they were designed to do. Below you will find the guidelines for child safety seats.

Mississippi Child Restraint Law states the following:

• Child Safety Seat: Children under 4 years old or weighing less than 40 pounds must be in an appropriate child safety seat.

• Booster seat with lap and shoulder belt: Children 4 to 7 years old who weigh at least 40 pounds must be in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat unless they are 80 pounds or 4-feet, 9-inches tall.

• Lap and shoulder safety belts: Children 8 years and older or weighing at least 80 pounds or at least 4-feet, 9-inches tall are required to be secured by a safety belt or booster seat appropriate for that child.

There are many reasons children need the protection of proper restraint in a vehicle. The bones of young children are soft, and their ligaments are looser than those of adults. They need the assistance of the appropriate car seat, booster seat or lap and shoulder belts to be held securely. These tools also protect the child from hitting or being hit by something or someone during a crash. Even during a sudden stop, these devices secure children in place, absorbing the force of such an abrupt movement and spreading that impact out safely.

Installing the car safety seat or booster seat correctly is key to it functioning well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a lot of helpful information on its website, www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/child-safety, including a series of videos showing how to install and use various types of devices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also has a helpful guide called Car Seats: Information for Families, www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx. This guide has good explanations of what to use for the specific age and size of a child, as well as answers to some frequently asked questions.

A child's young life is too precious to leave to chance. Use a car safety seat or booster seat as recommended, even on short trips. No one ever knows when an accident will happen; that's why we call them accidents!

For more information on safely installing a car safety seat or booster seat and how to properly restrain a child of any age, contact local law enforcement officials or the local Health Department. They will be able to guide you to a certified child passenger safety technician.

For more information, call your local county extension office.

• Jennifer Russell is the county coordinator and a child and family development Extension agent for the Washington County MSU Extension Service Office in Greenville. You may contact her at 662-334-2669 or jtb20@msstate.edu.

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