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Editorial: Boost your child's safety with these tips

How safe is your young child when he or she is riding in your vehicle?

While it's impossible to make sure children are 100 percent safe, parents can greatly "boost" the safety level by making sure they're in booster seats at the right age and size, generally when they're between the ages of 4 and 7.

Minnesota strengthened its child passenger safety law effective July 1, 2009 and crash data shows a significant increase in booster seats - seat lifts that help adult seat belts fit children properly.

Between 2007 and 2009, DPS reported that only 44 percent of booster-age children - those 4 to 7 years old - involved in crashes were in booster seats. In the year since the law became effective, 59 percent of children in crashes were in boosters. This translated to more than 1,000 children in booster seats who suffered no injury.

This is good news.

But there's also bad news: In Minnesota, 83 percent of child restraints are being used incorrectly, according to safety experts.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is underscoring the need for parents to ensure all children are in the proper restraint based on their size.

The DPS provided the following information parents should remember the next time they buckle their children in for a car ride:

Boosters are for children who have outgrown a forward-facing seat, usually starting around 40 pounds and age 4. Under the state's law, a child cannot be secured in only a seat belt until they are 8 years old or 4 feet, 9 inches tall - whichever comes first. It is strongly recommended, however, to keep a child in a booster until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

Lack of booster seat use results in poor seat belt fit that can contribute to serious injury and ejection from a vehicle in the event of a traffic crash. A sign that a seat belt does not fit properly and a booster is needed is if a child wraps the shoulder belt behind them to avoid the belt rubbing against their neck or crossing their face. Belts should be low and snug across the hips.

The fine for booster seat non-use is $50, but can cost more than $100 with administrative fees.

Parents should know the following restraint steps children progress through as they age and grow:

• Rear-facing infant seats - infants until at least 1 year and 20 pounds.

• Forward-facing toddler seats - 1 to 4 years old.

• Booster seats - starting after children have outgrown the forward-facing seat, usually after turning age 4, until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

• Seat belts - older than 8 years old or 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

• Children should ride in the back seat until age 13; if riding in the front seat, passenger-side airbags must be turned off.

Parents should also be aware of the most common child passenger safety mistakes:

• Turning a child from a rear-facing restraint to a forward-facing restraint too soon.

• Restraint not secured tight enough - the seat should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the vehicle's seat.

• Harness on the child is not tight enough - if you can pinch harness material, it's too loose.

• Retainer clip is up too high or too low - should be at the child's armpit level.

• The child is in the wrong restraint - children must progress through different restraints as they age and grow.

For more information, visit the DPS website,