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Child Passenger Safety

Child in car seat
  • Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death for children. But many of these deaths can be prevented with the appropriate car seats, booster seats and seat belts.
  • Car seat use reduces the risk of death to infants younger than age 1 by 71% and to toddlers 1 to 4-years-old by 54% in passenger vehicles.
  • Booster seat use reduces the risk of serious injury by 45% for children 4-8 years old when compared with seat belt use alone

Ohio Law

Ohio's Child Passenger Safety Law

Ohio Car Seat Law ORC 4511.81 

Law: Under 4 years of age or less than 40 pounds required to be in a child safety seat according to car seat instructions

RECOMMENDATION: Children who have outgrown their rear facing car seat should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat

Law: 4 to 8-year old who weigh 40 pounds or more and are shorter than 4 feet 9 inches are required to be in a booster seat or other approved safety seat according to car seat instructions

RECOMMENDATION: Children whose height or weight is above the forward-facing limit should use a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly.

Law: Requires children age 8-15 to be in seat belts no matter where they are in the car

RECOMMENDATION: Children younger than 13 years old should be restrained using a lap and shoulder belt in the rear seats of the car for optimal protection

How do I choose the right seat for my child?

Car seat use reduces the risk of death to infants younger than age 1 by 71% and to toddlers 1 to4-years-old by 54% in passenger vehicles.

The right car seat for a child should be selected based on a child’s height and weight, age, and developmental level. Consider these factors when choosing the right seat:

  • Height and weight - Car seats have height and weight limits, and can have different limits for each type of use (such as forward-facing or rear-facing). Parents and caregivers should weigh and measure their child and refer to the car seat’s labels and manual to determine limits and whether it is appropriate for the child. If a child’s height or weight has exceeded the limit, the child has outgrown the car seat. A child has outgrown a rear-facing car seat when the top of the head is only 1 inch below the top of the car seat shell.
  • Age - a child should remain rear-facing as long as possible, or they reach the height or weight limit of the seat. It is also safest to keep a child in a five-point harness for as long as possible.
  • Developmental levels - children with special healthcare needs, such as poor head control or behavioral concerns, may benefit from staying rear-facing or riding in a five-point harness as long as possible.

How long should my child remain rear facing?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics technical package released in August 2018, all infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing child safety system as long as possible until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their child safety system's manufacturer.

Why should my child be in a booster seat?

  • Booster seats provide head, neck, and back support. Booster seats place the seat belt off a child’s head and neck, and across their chest. It positions the lap belt low on a child’s hip and not on the stomach. Without a booster seat, the lap belt can ride up onto the stomach and cause stomach or spinal cord injuries in a crash.
  • A child using a booster seat with a seat belt, rather than using a seat belt alone, reduces the risk of injury in a crash by 59 percent. Researchers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimate that more than half of children killed in motor vehicle crashes each year would be alive today if seat belt use and child safety seat use were at 100 percent.

Why is the law important? Most Ohio children are still not in booster seats.

  • Motor vehicle traffic remains the leading cause of death for Ohio children ages 4 to 7 years.  From 1999 to 2006, at least 34 Ohio children aged 4 to 7 years died as occupants in motor vehicles (Source: Office of Vital Statistics).  
  • In 2007, Ohio’s booster seat use rate for children aged 4 to 8 years was only 18 percent, one of the lowest in the country. (Source: Partners for Child Passenger Safety). Research studies have found that child restraint laws are very effective at increasing appropriate child restraint usage (Source: CDC Community Guide).


When should my child move from a booster seat to a seat belt?

A child should remain in a booster seat until a child can use a seatbelt and it can be positioned comfortably on them, so it is snug, flat, and falls across their chest and low on their hips. It is safest for the child to remain in a booster seat until the adult seat belt system fits them properly as follows:

  • The child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with their knees bent at the edge of the seat without slouching.
  • The shoulder belt lies in middle of their chest and shoulder, not their neck or throat.
  • The lap belt is low and snug across the upper thighs, not the belly.
  • The child can stay in this position comfortably throughout the entire trip.

Additional information on proper fitting can be found at:  https://carseat.org/faq/#When-is-it-safe-for-a-child-to-ride-without-a-booster


Car Seat Program

The Ohio Department of Health’s Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Program, Ohio Buckles Buckeyes (OBB) program, provides child safety seats and booster seats to eligible, low income families in all 88 counties in Ohio.

In 2019, the OBB program distributed 5,468 car seats.

The Ohio Buckles Buckeyes (OBB) Program

Low income car seat program available to residents in all 88 counties of Ohio provides child safety seats and booster seats to eligible, low income families. Through the coordinated efforts of local and regional CPS coordinators, the OBB Program distributes child safety seats and booster seats and provides CPS education. The OBB Program has distributed more than 17,000 child safety seats and booster seats to low income families in Ohio over the past five years.

G­oal of Program: to increase availability of child safety seats for families that would not otherwise be able to afford them and to increase correct installation and proper use of child safety seats.

Requirements of Program: Families must be within WIC eligibility guidelines and must attend an educational class on how to properly use the car seat for their child and how to correctly install the seat in their vehicle, taught by the OBB coordinator in county of residence.

Occupant Protection Regional Coordinators (OPRCs)

The OBB Program works in close collaboration with a network of regional CPS coordinators who provide technical assistance, training and educational resources to the local OBB sites in their regions. The regional CPS coordinators assist the OBB sites in the implementation, coordination and evaluation of their distribution programs. They offer a mechanism for ensuring that the local sites have trained personnel and are in compliance with program requirements.  

The regional CPS coordinators serve as the child passenger safety expert in their region. These coordinators organize car seat check events and monitor fitting station sites at the local level. Car seat checks and fitting stations are specific locations sponsored by community organizations where parents and other caregivers can receive education and training on how to properly install and use their child safety seat from a certified CPS technician.

Where can I get my car seat checked?

There are Child Passenger Safety Technicians in most communities ready and available to provide resources and education to parents and caregivers on car seats, as well as provide hands-on education to determine if their car seat is installed properly. Visit NHTSA’s website to view the  Fitting Station Search Tool and search by ZIP code or address to find the nearest fitting station where a technician can provide hands-on education and resources.

How do I learn more about becoming a Child Passenger Safety Technician?

Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST) demonstrate their considerable knowledge and expertise at a variety of community-based activities, such as car seat check events, where parents and caregivers receive education and hands-on assistance. CPS technicians also keep up-to-date on the latest technical information about child passenger safety through seminars and other continuing education opportunities.

CPST certification courses are available throughout Ohio multiple times a year. It is a three- or four-day long course, and includes written, verbal, and hands-on assessments throughout the course, and concludes with a check-up event.

Many of the regional CPS coordinators teach the CPST certification courses in their region throughout the year. Visit the  Safe Kids Worldwide Certification Page to find a class nearest to you. 

Program Funding

The OBB Program is funded by child restraint fines deposited into the Child Highway Safety Fund.  Funding for the regional CPS coordinators comes from the Ohio Traffic Safety Office at the Ohio Department of Public Safety which receives funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Contact information

For more information, or to contact the program in your county, call 800-755-GROW (4769).

Mailing Address:
Ohio Department of Health
Childhood Passenger Safety
246 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Telephone: (800) 755-GROW (4769)
Fax: (614) 644-7740

E-mail: HealthyOhio@odh.ohio.gov

Resources and Links

Ohio Resources

Ohio Law - Ohio Revised Code 4511.81

Ohio Buckles Buckeyes Info Card

Boost Ohio's Kids Brochure

Child Passenger Safety Exam Room Guide

Pocket Card of Ohio Occupant Protection Laws

Ohio Child Passenger Safety Coordinators Contact Information

Local Resources

ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children's Hospital 

Dayton Children's Hospital - Center for Community Health and Advocacy

Cincinnati Children's Hospital - Comprehensive Children's Injury Center

Portsmouth City Health Department Car Seat Program

Columbus Public Health Childhood Injury Prevention Program

Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Injury Prevention Center

Stark County Health Department

Akron Children's Hospital

Center for Injury Research and Policy, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Other Links

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

National Child Passenger Safety Board

Safe Kids Worldwide

Safety Belt Safe USA

Governor’s Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) State Laws

Kid's Health Auto Safety

Safe Kids USA Car Seats, Booster Seats and Seat Belt Safety