SALT LAKE CITY — About 73 percent of car seats are not being used correctly, according to new data released by Safe Kids Worldwide and General Motors.

Findings from more than 100,000 car seat inspections across the country reveal that parents are making five serious, but fixable mistakes when using car seats. The most common mistakes include using the wrong seat for the child's age, weight and height; putting a child seat in the front seat too soon; putting a child in a forward-facing seat too early; not using the correct lower anchors or top tethers for their car seat and vehicle; and not tightening the harness straps enough.

Correct use of a child safety seat reduces the chance of an infant being killed in a crash by 71 percent, as well as the risk of a toddler being killed by 54 percent, according to the data. Kids in booster seats are also half as likely to die in a crash than those in adult seat belts.

"To ensure that our children — our most precious cargo — are safe in cars, we recommend parents take 15 minutes to check their car seats every year," said Janet Brooks, child advocacy manager at Primary Children's Medical Center.

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Safe Kids Utah urges parents to check the label on the seat to be sure it is the right one for the child's age. The organization also says that the safest place for a child in a vehicle is in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old. A car seat should be kept rear-facing for as long as possible, until around age 2, and Utah law requires that a child uses a booster seat until they are at least 4-feet, 9-inches tall.

Once installed, make sure straps don't move more than an inch, and parents shouldn't be able to pinch any extra slack in the harness straps.

Free car seat checks will be held across the state through Sept. 22. For more information, call the local health department.