Are you sure your child is as safe as they can be while riding in the car?

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in children in the United States, and result in injury to more than 120,000 children each year.

While most people believe their children are properly buckled up, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out that 46% of all car seats are misused. Child restraint laws are present in every state and include the use of safety seats for infants and younger children, as well as requirements for older children.

As part of its annual “Save Me with a Seat” campaign, and in honor of National Child Passenger Safety Week Sept. 15–21, The Texas Department of Transportation is encouraging parents and caregivers to sign up for a free child car seat check-up at any of its 25 district offices located throughout Texas.

The agency is making a concerted effort to make sure parents have their children securely buckled in the appropriate car seats, and that those seats are correctly installed.

Similarly, Woodland Heights Medical Center brought community groups together on Saturday to share a variety of safety tips with a fun twist in the hospital parking lot.

Parents and caregivers can ensure they are using and installing child car seats correctly by keeping these four safety guidelines in mind.

■ Children should be in rear-facing infant or rear-facing convertible safety seats in the back seat of the vehicle for as long as possible, up to the rear-facing height or weight limit of the seat.

■ When children outgrow the rear-facing safety seat — at least age 2 — they should ride in a forward-facing safety seat as long as possible, up to the upper height or weight limit of the harnesses, usually about age 4.

■ When a child reaches the age of 4 and about 40 pounds, they can ride in a booster seat with the adult lap and shoulder belt until the adult safety belt will fit them properly. The child’s maturity level also is a factor in making the switch from a safety seat to a booster seat.

■ Once children outgrow their booster seat, usually between 10 and 12 years old, they can use the adult lap and shoulder safety belt if it fits them properly according to the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.

A couple of other notes: A child is not supposed to ride in the front passenger seat of the car until they reach the age of 13 and all children under the age of 17 must wear a seat belt at all times in a vehicle, regardless of where they are sitting.

Texas law now requires drivers and all passengers to be secured by a safety belt. A violation can result in fines ranging from $25 to $250, plus court costs.

Keeping children safe should be a priority of parents and caregivers at all times, but particularly when traveling by car.