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Staying Safe in the Car and on the Bus

Most kids spend some time in a car or a bus every day. But riding in cars or buses comes with some responsibility: You need to ride safely. Luckily, it's not hard to do. Keep reading and you'll learn the rules of car and bus safety.

Seatbelt Basics

Whenever you ride in a car, wear your seatbelt every time. No matter how short the trip is — even if it's only around the corner — you still need to buckle up. This is so important because if the car you're riding in gets into an accident, the seatbelt keeps you safe in your seat. Even if the car is moving slowly, you can still get thrown around if you're not wearing your seatbelt.

When you get into a car, buckle up right away. Most cars have one belt that goes over the lap and the shoulder. Some older cars have a shoulder belt that is separate from the lap belt so you need to buckle both. Or they might have no shoulder belt and only a belt across the lap.

Whichever kind of seatbelt you come across, the directions are the same: Buckle every belt.

If you're wearing a seatbelt correctly:

  • The lap (lower) part of the belt should be sitting low and tight across the upper part of your hips. It should never go across the upper half of your belly.
  • The shoulder part of the seatbelt should fit snugly across your chest and shoulder, not under your arm or across your neck or face.

Sometimes seatbelts need to be adjusted to fit a kid, so ask an adult to make sure your seatbelt fits right.

Riding in a friend's or relative's car is no excuse to skip the seatbelt. Even if your friend or friend's parents don't wear seatbelts, always wear yours. And don't ever share a seatbelt with a friend — it might look like fun to buckle up as a pair, but you could both get hurt if an accident happens.

Booster Seats

Depending on your height, you might also need a booster seat. Booster seats help you sit up high enough so the shoulder part of seatbelt fits properly across your chest.

Kids should use a booster seat until they fit just right in a seatbelt and grow out of the booster seat which is usually when they are about 4 feet, 9 inches tall (150 cm) or between the ages of 8 and 12. So check with your parent to make sure you're big enough to ride safely without a booster!

Get in the Back

Here's another important safety rule: Sit in the back seat. Kids 12 years old and younger need to be sitting in the back. Period. It's simply the safest place to be. 

If a car with air bags is in a crash, the bags burst out of the steering wheel and dashboard and — whoosh! — blow up like big balloons. Though the bags have saved many adults' lives, kids 12 years and under should never sit in the front seat of a car that has air bags. That's because air bags are made to protect a bigger person's body, and when they open they can hurt kids.

But what if you're going to ride in someone else's car and you're asked to sit in the front seat? First, make sure the adult driver knows the rule: No one age 12 or younger in the front. If you have no choice but to sit in the front, follow safety rule #1: Wear your seatbelt! Have an adult help you push your seat all the way back so you'll be as far away from the air bag as possible. And keep your back against the seat — don't lean forward or wiggle around.

If you're in the back seat with friends or brothers and sisters, everyone needs to keep their seatbelts on and not play around. It can be hard for the driver to focus on driving and see what's going on outside the car if you're jumping around back there. Short story: It can be dangerous and everyone could get hurt.

Busing It

When riding the bus, you need to think about being a careful passenger and about how to get on and off the bus safely. Whether you ride the bus to school every day or once in a while, it's important to follow these rules:

  • When you see the bus driving up, everyone waiting should get into a line. The line should start about 5 giant steps from the curb and go away from the street, rather than down the side of the street.
  • Wait until the bus stops and the driver opens the door and says it's OK to step onto the bus. This is important! The driver is the only one who can really see all the traffic out on the road and make sure that it's safe for you to get on the bus. (If you must cross the street to board the bus, be sure to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and for the driver to flash the red lights.)
  • Once aboard, be sure to listen to the driver's instructions.

Rules for Bus Safety

As with riding in a car, the best thing to do on the bus is buckle up (if the bus has seatbelts). That's because if the bus is in an accident, the seatbelt will keep you from bouncing all over the place.

And play it cool when you're on the bus: No jumping, running around, or throwing things. This can make it hard for the driver to focus, and people might get hurt.

Be sure to pay attention as you're getting off the bus too. When you step down, hold onto the handrail and be careful that your backpack or book bag doesn't get caught on the rail or in the door.

After you exit the bus, never walk behind it. If you have to cross in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk way out in front of the bus, make sure that the driver sees you, then cross. If you drop something as you cross the street, don't ever bend down to pick it up — the bus driver might not see you. Instead, tell the driver you dropped something.

See how easy it is to be a safe passenger? Following these simple rules means you'll be more protected during a car or bus trip — and have more fun! So pack your bag, buckle up, and get on the road!

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date Reviewed: Jan 1, 2021

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