Car seats can spare children from serious harm or death in the event of a car crash when installed correctly, which is why San Luis Obispo County Health Department officials are hosting a free inspection.
The car seat inspection and installation takes place Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Target on Los Osos Valley Road.
Parents will receive assistance with installing the car seat, as well as learn important information about the integrity of the seat and its expiration date.
SLO County Health Education Specialist Magi Mejorado said her department routinely offers car seat inspections and said over 80 percent of the seats she and her staff inspects are installed incorrectly.
In the United States, vehicle collisions are the top cause of unintended death among children age 1 to 19, according to federal transportation data.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 2018 report shows properly installed car seats decreased the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants, 54 percent for toddlers, and 45 percent for children ages 4 to 8.
But according to data compiled by the San Luis Obispo County Health Department, about 50 percent of car crash victims under age 14 were not using a car seat or seat belt last year.
County data shows 37 of those young patients were transported to the hospital.
Experts say checking the expiration date and proper set up are two important factors that are often overlooked.
"Car seats expire when you lose the integrity of the plastics, like you have it in your car and it's hot, cold, hot," Mejorado said. "Then the clips get worn down from taking your children constantly in and out of them."
If you can't locate the expiration date on the car seat, Mejorado said a rule of thumb is to replace the car seat once it's more than six years old.
Here are some important tips for parents who can't attend the Tuesday car seat check in San Luis Obispo.