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Only 3% of kids properly restrained in car seats

Safe Kids says reading instructions is golden rule

New study says parents may be the ones to blame on bad car seat installation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Car crashes are the leading cause of death in kids over age 3, yet many parents choose not to use car seats properly, or simply don't know how.

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its child passenger safety guidelines. But new research shows many parents are confused by the changes.

The study revealed most kids aren't properly restrained, or the car seat is facing in the wrong direction.

Out of more than the 20,000 children observed in a car seat, only 3 percent of parents were getting it right.

Even though children are often the most important thing in their parents' lives, parents are still failing to adequately protect them on the road, the study says.

Far too many parents have never opened the manual to their car seat. Instead, they get instructions from a friend or neighbor and end up making costly mistakes, the study says.

"The main thing we see is that car seats aren't moving tightly enough," said Jessica Winberry, of Safe Kids Northeast Florida. "They're moving side to side and children aren't put in properly. The harness is not in the right position."

Winberry said there are so many different kinds of car seats on the market, so there is no one specific way to restrain a child.

Out of the 22,000 children between the ages of 1 and 3, researchers found only 3 percent were properly restrained, and only 10 percent of 8- to 10-year-old children were strapped in correctly to a booster or car seat.

The newest recommendations say that up until the age of 2, children should sit in rear-facing seats.

Children over the age of 2 should sit in front-facing seats with harnesses until their weight exceeds the car seat's capacity.

Reading the instructions on a car seat is the golden rule.

"There's a lot of information on the side," Winberry said. "Maximum weight, maximum height, minimum weight/height."

Also, kids shouldn't sit in the front seat of a car until they're 13 years old, experts say.