GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Millions of children travel in cars every day riding in a car or booster seat, but how can parents tell if their children are properly restrained?
According to the Mesa County Health Department, close to 90 percent of inspected car seats are misused. Officials say car seats can prevent serious injury and even death in children up to 12 years of age, which is why it's crucial parents are making sure they're installed correctly.
For mother Helen Beth Dittrich, a car ride is all about safety. Her posse of five no doubt makes for a busy house, but arguably an even busier car.
"I have an eight-year old, a six-year old, a four-year old, a two-year old and a one-year old," Dittrich said. "Even after five [children], things have changed, even on this car check."
"I think a lot of people probably feel intimidated or scared that they'll be in trouble if they're [buckling children up] wrong. I'd rather have my kids safe and know that I’m doing it right,” she said.
It’s just one reason she attended Friday’s child safety seat fitting hosted by the Mesa County Health Department.
"They can be surprised when they learn it wasn't quite right, but that's why we're here. We're here to educate people and make sure their children are safe," car seat technician Tamara Capp said.
Car seat technician and mother of two Julie Baker agrees. She says more often than not, car seats are misused.
"Basically they're doing something based on a knowledge that they thought they knew or a friend told them, or someone else mentioned," she said.
Experts say sometimes, parents are afraid to hear their children are riding incorrectly, but everyone needs to learn as the rules are always changing.
"I mean there’s a new rule on booster safety, there's new rules on how long your kid should be in a booster, there's new rules on when should your kid go into a booster," Baker said.
For some, the car seat check up was an eye-opening experience.
"I’m here learning, I’m almost 60 years old, I just learned the most I’ve ever learned about a car seat today,” grandfather Steve Katz said.
Katz isn’t alone. According to a survey conducted by the health department, 67 percent of parents did not know best practice says children should remain in a rear-facing seat until age two, and 67 percent of parents did not know that straps should be at or below the shoulders for those rear-facing riders.
The study also found 56 percent of parents did not know the recommended angle for a rear-facing seat is 45 degrees.
Ultimately, though, it's a lesson worth learning and a lesson that could make a life changing difference.
"You’ve got so many accidents and things going on out there. Let's make sure they're safe and do as much as we can," Katz said.
For those with multiple children, car seat technicians say it's okay to re-use car seats. Parents will just want to make sure the car seat has not expired.
If you didn't have a chance to swing by the safety seat fitting Friday, you can go on Saturday. The clinic runs from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Intellitec College on Horizon Ave. All car seat checks are free.