Family poses with first responders at reunion after car crash"Mom, look out, there's a car coming!"

Oretha Njike heard her daughter's warning with just enough time to swerve her car away from a distracted driver talking on his cell phone, but it wasn't enough to fully avoid an impact. After the collision, smoke started streaming from the car, and Oretha acted quickly to force open the car doors and get her kids out of their car seats and the vehicle.

Right after the accident, the Njikes arrived to the University of Maryland Medical Center Pediatric Emergency Department (PED) for an evaluation. There they met with Samantha Cribbs, MS, RN, CNL, a triage nurse and certified child passenger safety technician. She asked the family some specific questions about their car seats: was anyone ejected from the car? Did the seats move at all? Did the airbags go off?

Luckily the whole family was OK, just a little shaken. Despite their physical well-being, Samantha was concerned that the three kids may need new car seats. The youngest, Elijah, was riding in a forward-facing seat, even though a rear-facing seat is safer for his age and size.

She recommended the family make an appointment for one of the Safe Kids Baltimore coalition's monthly child safety seat checks. The coalition is led by the University of Maryland Children's Hospital and works to prevent unintentional childhood injuries in Baltimore City. The coalition partners with the Baltimore City Fire Department to hold monthly safety seat checks at the Oldtown Fire Station.

Three weeks after the accident, Samantha was volunteering at the September seat check, and thought she saw familiar faces. The Njikes had made a seat check appointment following their visit to the PED, and had come to the Oldtown Fire Station to get new car seats via the coalition's low cost car seat program for families in financial need.

photo of Ngassam, Elijah and Moses Njike in their new car seats

Ngassam, Elijah and Moses Njike in their new car seats

The family received a new, correct seat for each child, and was shown how to correctly install the seats in the car. Samantha and Sue Schmitt, RN, another child passenger safety technician and a nurse from UMCH's Mother/Baby Unit, helped educate the Njikes about the importance of proper installation.

"Our experience was so good! Now we know our kids are protected, which makes me so happy. I tell all my friends to come; I want all kids to have car seats," said Oretha.

Samantha recommends involving as many care givers as possible in the car seat safety process. If car seats are being moved around to different cars, each driver should know how to correctly install the seat.

Visit our website to learn more about Safe Kids Baltimore's monthly safety seat checks or make an appointment. If you are unable to make an appointment, check out Safe Kids Worldwide's Ultimate Car Seat Guide for more tips and to figure out which seat best meets your child's needs.

Looking for ways to help? Safe Kids Baltimore is always looking for donations, volunteers and support. For more information, email the coalition leader, Karen Hardingham, at