PEMBERTON, N.J. (CBS) – Kristina Newman loaded groceries into her car on Monday, but her most precious cargo, 4-year-old Leona and 6-month-old Leon Jr. go in first. Car seats, she says, are a must.

“I want to make sure nothing happens to my kids or anything. If I got hit, I want to make sure that they’re strapped in,” said Newman of Browns Mills.

Rusty Heath of Pemberton feels the same way about driving with his daughter.

“She’s going to be in her booster seat until she’s of the appropriate height or weight,” said Heath.

Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield says parents have the best of intentions when it comes to protecting their children on the road, but car crashes are still the number one cause of death for children ages one to twelve in the United States.

“Across the nation they say three out of four seats are not properly secured. In Burlington County, we find that number to be even higher, 90 percent and higher,” said Stanfield.

In many cases, the child safety seats are too loose. Not properly secured by the seats latch system or the cars seatbelts. Officer Scott Hamlet says putting your weight Into the seat while adjusting the straps makes a tighter fit.

“The whole car will shake, but it won’t be able to come out,” said Hamlet.

Putting your child in the wrong size seat is another common mistake.

“This child being under twenty pounds would be in a rear facing seat,” said Hamlet.

The Sheriff’s Department offers free clinics and schedules appointments with parents for proper installation.

The Sheriff’s Department also suggests to expecting parents to install those infant car seats about three to four weeks ahead of your due date because hospitals don’t let babies leave unless they’re in one.

A crash test video by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted on YouTube demonstrates the importance of child safety seats. An unrestrained child dummy flies out of an adult dummy’s arms.

“I’ve seen the aftermath of what happens when a child is involved in a fatal accident. Parents never recover,” said Hamlet.

Especially when child safety seats could have made a difference.

For information on Child Passenger Safety Week, visit

To reach the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department, click here.

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