PHOENIX – For Jae-O Bae, a surgeon at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, too many of the head, spine and abdominal injuries he treats after children are injured in car accidents could have been prevented by proper use of car seats.

“It’s unfortunate that the outcome is so dramatically different from children that are improperly restrained to children that are properly restrained,” he said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 75 percent of the nation’s car seats are incorrectly installed.

Hoping to reverse that trend, Phoenix Children’s Hospital has developed a mobile application that guides parents to the proper restraint based on a child’s age, height and weight and offers tips, photos and videos on proper use.

“Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of preventable deaths of children, so ensuring that your child is always safe in your car is the best thing to do,” said Angelica Baker, the hospital’s child passenger safety coordinator.

Baker works with parents whose children have sustained injuries in car accidents to to help them make better use of child restraints. During her three years at the hospital, she has found that many parents are surprised to learn that car seats are supposed to be retired six years after they are manufactured and aren’t supposed to be reused after an accident.

The free app, available for iPhone and Android devices, includes these facts.

“We want to make it easy for parents to keep children safe,” Baker said.

Mary Peka, public affairs officer for AAA Arizona, said any information given to parents is helpful because car seats are used improperly so often.

“It’s a good tool because it puts the information in the parents’ hands, but we advise them to do a little more homework as well,” Peka said.

Along with Peka, the app advises parents to seek in-person instruction. It provides contact information for certified car seat technicians nearby.

Alberto Gutier, director of Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said the app will help parents know when it’s appropriate for a child to sit in a booster seat or use a regular seat belt.

“They want to do the right thing, but again they have to buy the right type of car seat for their child,” he said.

Lisa Jones, a Phoenix Fire Department captain, said she has seen a wide range of results from car accidents with children not restrained properly in car seats.

“If not correctly fastened we can’t say where the car seat will go,” Jones said. “It’s the worst of the worst.”

Rachel Jimenez is a reporter for Cronkite News Service.

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