As parents, we are ever vigilant about protecting our children's health.  We take them for check-ups when they are sick or sometimes even when they are healthy, fill out the appropriate forms for the school nurse, pack a water bottle in their lunch bag, and make sure that they get books, fresh air, and as many fruits and veggies as you can squeeze on their plates each day.

I know many parents who spend a great deal of time each day doing things that safeguard their child's health.

Yet how many of us ever give a second thought to our child's car seats, seat belts, or booster seats once they are installed?  

Consider this: Car accidents are the number one cause of death in children ages 1-13. Now, many of those deaths could never have been prevented.  But some of them could, by making sure that the children were using safety equipment appropriate for their age, weight, and height while in the car.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA,) in 2012, over one third (37percent) of children killed in car crashes were not in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts. The agency estimates that car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers in cars.

This week is Child Passenger Safety Week - a week set aside to encourage parents to take a closer look at their kids, their cars, and their child's car seats to ensure that they are a good match for each child's safety.

So what can you do to ensure that your kids are safe while riding in the car?

Here are the NHTSA recommendation for kids and car seats:
  • Keep children rear-facing as long as possible up to the top height or weight allowed by their particular seats.
  • Once a child outgrows the rear-facing only “infant” car seat, she should travel in a rear-facing “convertible” or multi-use car seat.
  • Once your child outgrows the rear-facing size limits, he is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
  • After outgrowing the forward-facing car seats, children should be placed in booster seats until they’re big enough to use seat belts safely.
  • The safest place for kids under 13 is in the back seat of the car.
  • Always remember to register your car seat and booster seat with the car seat manufacturer, so you can be notified in the event of a recall.

Carve out 15 minutes sometime this week to take a look at your child's car seat.  Is it the right type for her age and weight?  Is it installed correctly, or have the latches or belts loosened since you last took a look?  Any wear and tear that could impact the overall safety of the seat?

Take the time now, so that you can rest assured you have crossed this item off of your child safety list.  At least for the next year!

Related posts on MNN:

Check in for Child Passenger Safety Week
Should your child be rear-facing or forward facing? At what age can he safely sit in the front seat? We've got the answers to these questions and more.