HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The leading cause of death in children 14 years and younger is a car crash. By 1999, the federal government realized they needed to educate families and created a child safety program. When Child Safety Specialist Mari Hodges of Babies and Kids First Furniture heard about this program, she got certified and decided to make training Houston parents a priority.
"When I had my first child, I didn't realize how dangerous the roads were," said Hodges.
Now, she helps new parents choose a car seat, install the seat, and properly secure the baby.
"All car seats pass the same safety standard," she added.
However, Hodges says there is new technology that goes above and beyond the baseline. Look for multiple levels of side impact to help support the baby's head and protect the baby. "It's impact foam, so when energy hits, it splits like this. It actually absorbs impact twice."
"Another type of technology is a rebound bar. In a crash, everything goes forward, dips down, rebounds like this. That will keep the seat from overturning and control that," said Hodges.
Also look for a load leg or stability bar. It's a piece attached to the car seat that is lowered to the floor of the car. "What that does is on impact...everything goes forward, it dips down, and it rebounds," explained Hodges.
While parents should place their babies in the middle seat, some cars are not equipped for that, so side door protection allows extra security.
When installing the car seat, follow the directions for the clips or the seat belt. Then, "You test for tightness... You shake at the belt path left to right, front to back. It better not move more than one inch in either direction," Hodges advised.
Finally, buckle up baby! Hodges says four out of five parents do this wrongly!
"There are three rules that have to happen," said Hodges.
First, pull the seat belt strap at the base of the car seat, and make sure the seatbelt around the baby's hips is pulled tight.
"Step two -- move the seatbelt clip up to be level with armpit."
The third step is to locate the slots in the back of the car seat. These will move up as the baby grows taller. When the baby is rear-facing, the chosen slot needs to be level with the strap or lower.
Finally, baby's ready to go!
And, if you're thinking about a baby mirror, Hodges says think again. They're not crash-tested, so there's no telling how that mirror will hold up in a collision, and that mirror takes mom and dad's eyes off the road.
Steps to safely secure babies in car seats