Check your car seat: Majority installed improperly in Tennessee

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Car crashes are the No. 1 cause of child deaths nationwide, and many times it can be prevented by properly restraining the child.

One Middle Tennessee family knows all too well how crucial it is to secure a child’s car seat.

It’s been four years since the Bouge family was involved in a deadly wreck.

Megan Bouge was behind the wheel, her mother in the passenger seat and her two children were in the back. All were wearing seatbelts when a driver crossed the center line and hit their car head on.

“We were a family of four for two weeks,” Megan told News 2.

(Courtesy: The Bouge Family)

The crash left Megan fighting for her life. It killed her mother, along with her 3-year-old daughter, Wyncie.

Megan’s son, Emmitt, was only two weeks old at the time. He suffered a broken leg and some internal bleeding.

“The doctors and the investigators still don’t understand how we survived that. The fact that we did, it was definitely my seat belt and his car seat. There is no way around it,” said Megan.

The family says Emmett’s car seat and the fact that it was installed correctly saved his life.

“Thank God Emmett was restrained properly and survived that.”

Today, the Bouges still have hesitation when they get behind the wheel.

“It makes me absolutely terrified sometimes to be on the road, and it makes me even worry further about his safety and so having a car seat properly installed is definitely what I focus on,” Megan’s husband Brandon told News 2.

Even though Emmett is now old enough to be in a booster seat, they take an extra precaution by keeping him in a 5-point harness.

“Safety is a luxury that’s been afforded to all of us fortunately, I just encourage everybody to please if you have a child just get your car seat checked,” Brandon pleaded.

It only takes a few minutes and could save your child’s life.

There are more than 150 fitting stations across the state that will check your car seat for free, and many are at police or fire stations.

News 2 spoke with the program manager of the Middle Tennessee Child Passenger Safety Center. Angela Brown said the percent of parents in Tennessee who don’t follow the correct procedures on car seats is above the national average.

(Photo: WKRN)

“In the state of Tennessee, we have an 84 percent misuse rate, which means 84 percent of our parents aren’t doing something right, according to car seat manufacturer’s instructions. Nationally, there’s a 73 percent misusage rate, so we are above the national average. So, we want to make sure that parents know exactly how to use their car seat, exactly how it was designed to be used. That’s the only way it’s going to protect their child in a car crash,” explained Brown.

The Tennessee Highway Safety Office has information on what kind of car seat your child should be in, like if the child should be forward facing or backwards. Click here for more information.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt also offered advice, such as making sure your child isn’t wearing a coat as the harness won’t fit snug enough.

Parents also want to make sure they register their child’s car seat, so they can be notified if there’s a recall.

There’s also expiration dates on car seats that parents should be aware of, and you shouldn’t hang toys from the car seat as they could fly off in the event of an accident and injure the child.

You also want to make sure and push back the handle on infant car seats because they serve as a cocoon to protect the child.

More than 6,600 child restraint device violations were issued by the Tennessee Highway Patrol last year.