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Parents, here's how to protect that precious cargo

Parents and caregivers -- buckle up those kids before driving.

Preliminary 2009 crash facts from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reveal that none of four children under age 7 killed in crashes this year were properly restrained -- and seven of 10 children seriously injured were also not in a safety restraint.

This is national Child Passenger Safety Week, and it's also a good time to remind parents of the state's new booster seat law that became effective July 1.

In Minnesota, 83 percent of child restraints are used incorrectly, meaning children are riding in the wrong restraint or it is not properly secured. Kids are dying or being seriously injured because their parents aren't using the proper restraints or aren't using them correctly.

Boosters are for children that have outgrown a forward-facing seat, usually around 40 pounds and age 4. A booster seat lifts a child up so a seat belt fits properly.

Poor seat belt fit can contribute to serious injury -- such as internal decapitation -- ejection and death in traffic crashes.

A major issue with child passenger safety is that parents are not aware of the restraint steps a child should progress through as they age and grow: rear-facing infant seats, forward-facing toddler seats, booster seats, and seat belts.

The most common child passenger safety mistakes are:

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

-- Restraint is not secured tight enough -- the seat should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the 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; most often parents/caregivers neglect to use booster seats and "rush" children into adult seat belts that don't properly fit the child. 

Use a booster seat until the child is 8 years old, unless the child is 4-foot, 9-inches or taller.