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Child Passenger Safety

Using the Right Restraint to Save Kids' Lives

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age four to 14.   
  • Keeping children safe on the road means putting them in the right restraint at the right age. Child Passenger Safety Technicians in Baltimore County are working to make sure parents and child care providers know and follow every one of the four Steps for Kids, including the essential booster seat step that is often missed.

Securing your child in the right restraint for their age every time they ride in a motor vehicle is one of the most important things you can do to protect your child. There are many web sites to help you use car seats correctly. Here are some of the best:

Using the right restraint at the right time can save kid's lives

The Four Steps for Kids are:

  1. Rear-Facing Infant Seats in the back seat from birth to at least one year old and at least 20 pounds.
  2. Forward-Facing Toddler Seats in the back seat from age one to about age four and 20 to 40 pounds.
  3. Booster Seats in the back seat from about age four and 40 pounds to at least age eight, unless 4 feet 9 inches.
  4. Safety Belts at age eight or older or taller than four feet nine inches. All children 12 and under should ride in the back seat.

Step 1: Infants (From Birth to at Least One Year of Age)

  • Rear-facing infant seats
    Install your child safety seat properly with these instructions and illustrations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Rear-facing convertible seats
    Learn to install your rear-facing convertible seat with these instructions and examples from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Step 2: Toddlers and Children To About Four Years

  • Learn to properly install your forward-facing convertible seats using these instructions and illustrations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Learn to install your forward-facing seats with these examples from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Step 3: Big Kids Who Need A Boost

  • Booster seats (Children From About Age Four Until At Least Age Eight or four feet nine inches)

    While most infants and toddlers ride in the right child safety seat, less than 10 percent of the children who should be in booster seats use one. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children who have outgrown child safety seats be properly restrained in booster seats in the back seat until they are at least eight years old, unless they are four feet nine inches tall.

    A booster seat lifts a child up so a safety belt can fit correctly. Without a booster seat, in a crash, a small child can be ejected from a vehicle.

Step 4: Kids Who Are At Least Four Feet Nine Inches Tall (Usually Eight Or Older)

  • Kids in the back please! According to national best practices, children of any age and size are safest in the back seat. Those younger than 13 should never ride in a front seat equipped with an air bag. Generally, experts recommend that children be 100 pounds and about 5 feet tall before riding in the front.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration illustrates the proper use of the lap-shoulder seat belts.

More Great Resources

Nearly every car seat and most vehicles manufactured since September 1, 2002, are required to use the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. This system makes it easier to get a child seat installed correctly. For additional information, visit The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This useful Child Passenger Safety Fact Sheet, produced by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), addresses important questions, such as: 

  • How big is the problem?
  • What are the risk factors?
  • How can injuries to children in motor vehicles be prevented?
  • What are CDC’s research and program activities in this area?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides detailed safety and information tips: the answers to many questions about car seat use and contact numbers for car seat manufacturers.

Find Up-to-Date Information and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions at Safety Belt Safe U.S.A.

  • Quick Checklist for Safety Seat Misuse
  • Automobile Restraints for Children with Special Needs
  • Which safety seat is the best for my child?
  • But my child won't stay in the car seat!
  • Does my child need a booster seat?
  • Do I need to replace a seat that's been in an accident?
  • The five step test

For more information, or to find out how you can have your child safety seat checked, please call the Baltimore County Police Department at 410-887-8717, or visit one of our car seat checks.

Revised April 7, 2015

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