Car accidents often claim the lives of drivers and passengers alike, but few are more at risk than children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 700 children ages 16 and under died in auto accidents in 2017 and that these crashes are a leading cause of death for this age group.

Understanding risk factors for child fatality during a crash may help you reduce the odds of this terrible event and which cautionary steps to take before you put any child in your vehicle.

Improper car seat installation 

While the design of infant and child seats properly restrains children during a car crash, some children die due to incorrect installation. In order for safety seats to work correctly, parents must follow the manufacturer’s instructions for buckling them in. Assuming a new unit fits the same as an earlier model may lead to malfunction or cause the seat to detach during a collision, which could seriously endanger the life of your child.

Incorrect seat belt use 

You may feel tempted to allow your toddler or elementary school-aged child to climb out of his or her car or booster seat and use a regular seat belt, especially if your child is eager to sit in a seat like a big kid. However, this can increase the risk of death during a crash. Most children this age cannot wear the chest strap properly, which may heighten the chances of ejection upon collision with another vehicle. You can ask your pediatrician for advice about whether your older child is ready to wear a factory seat belt.