HELENA – Installing child safety seats can be complicated, but the Montana Department of Transportation wants to make it easier.

At an event Wednesday sponsored by MDT and Tri-County Buckle Up Montana, safety experts showed drivers how to properly secure children in safety seats.

According to MDT, 4 out of 5 child safety seats are installed incorrectly.

John Spencer, a sergeant with the Montana Highway Patrol, said parents can sometimes get lost in the directions.

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“It’s not because parents don’t care or that they don’t want to do it correctly,” Spencer said. “It’s just that’s there so much information with these car seats now of how they’re installed and where they’re positioned.”

In just over an hour, MDT and the Tri-County Buckle up Montana Coalition helped around 25 families feel more at ease when on the road.

One of those people was Ann Wootan. Wootan wanted to get her seat check to make sure it was secured for her son.

“I’ve kind of been a little bit worried about it, so it’s nice to have somebody to check it and make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to,” Wootan added.

According to Mark Lee, captain of the Butte Fire Department, one of the biggest mistakes parents make is not tightening the belt that secures the base of the car seat to the car. When tightened correctly, the base of the car seat shouldn’t move more than an inch.

If your safety seat is more than eight or nine years old, it’s time for an upgrade. Safety seats expire and break down over time.

Drivers should also be sure to have car seats at the right level so the child is able to breathe easily. Some car seats have levels built in that show where the seat should be.

Finally, experts said the child’s seat should face the back of the car until they’re at least two years old.

“This is our children and our kids…which is probably our most precious cargo. If we’re not keeping them secured safely, there’s a potential we could cause harm or injury to them during a crash,” Spencer said.

In Montana, 43 children under the age of 10 have died in car crashes in the last 10 years.

Montana law requires all children under six and less than 60 pounds to be in a child safety seat or booster seat.

“If you haven’t had a child in a while and have one and things are a lot different or if it’s you’re first child and you’re not sure if you’re doing it right, come see us,” Spencer said.

Individual appointments to have your car seat checked can be made by calling Tracie Kiesel with Tri-County Buckle Up Montana at 406-324-1072.

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