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Road Rules for Kids

Even when kids no longer need to ride in a car seat, there are still important safety rules to follow.

To protect kids in cars:

  • Kids should use booster seats if they haven’t reached the age or height requirement for a regular seatbelt.
  • Adults, older kids, and teens should always wear seatbelts.
  • Take precautions so kids can't get in cars by themselves and so they don't accidentally get trapped in a car. 
  • Practice good defensive driving habits.
  • Never drive a car or operate any vehicle after drinking alcohol or using drugs.

Kids also play a role when it comes to staying safe in a car or on a bus. Most are in these vehicles every day and so they should know some simple travel rules to help keep them safe. Explain to your kids that they must follow these rules every time, no matter who is driving or how short the ride might be.

Rules for the Car

  • Wear a seatbelt or use a booster seat during every car trip. Fasten the seatbelt before the car is even in motion and leave it on until the end of the trip.
  • Use all parts of the seatbelt. Most cars have lap and shoulder belts that buckle as a unit. But some have two separate belts, one lap and one shoulder, and others have a lap belt only. Teach your kids to look for and secure every part of the belt. Also teach them not to tuck the belt under their armpit, even if they think it is more comfortable that way. Doing so makes the belt less effective in a crash.
  • Never share seatbelts. Two kids should never buckle up as a pair.
  • Sit in the back seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 13 years old always ride in the back seat. This protects them from getting seriously injured if an air bag opens. Explain to your child that air bags are made to protect a person with a much bigger body.
  • Play it cool. Kids should understand the importance of staying calm and low-key in the back seat. If they jump around or yell, it can distract the driver and put all the passengers at risk.
  • Play elsewhere. Explain to kids that cars aren’t for play, especially hide-and-seek. They could become trapped, which could be dangerous. If younger children want a toy that’s in a car, tell them to ask an adult. And if kids ever get stuck in a car, they should honk the horn to get someone’s attention.
  • Follow the rules in every car. Kids need to follow the rules when they're in a friend's or relative's car, even if other passengers don't follow the rules. If asked to sit in the front seat of someone else's car, your child should politely tell the driver that they prefer to sit in the back seat.

Rules for the Bus

  • Wait for the bus away from the street. Kids should get in a line that starts about 6 feet (2 meters) from the curb and goes away from the street rather than down the side.
  • Wait for the OK. Kids must wait until the bus driver opens the door and says that it's OK to step on. They should not step into the road even a moment sooner.
  • Be careful getting on the bus. This is important for older kids who may carry bags and backpacks that can get caught in a door or around a seat.
  • Wear seatbelts, if possible. If a bus has seatbelts, they should be buckled before the bus leaves and left on until the bus arrives at its destination.
  • Play it cool. Make sure kids understand the importance of staying in their seats while the bus is moving. Running or climbing around the bus can distract the driver and be dangerous to other riders.
  • Be careful getting off the bus. When exiting the bus, kids should hold onto the handrail and step down slowly. Once off the bus, they must walk in front of it, never behind it.
  • Stay in front. If they need to cross in front of the bus, kids should walk on the sidewalk next to the bus for at least 10 feet (about 3 meters), make sure the bus driver gives the OK, and then cross the street.
  • Don't disappear. A child who drops something while crossing in front of a bus should never bend over to pick it up. This makes the child invisible to the driver. Instead, teach kids to tell the bus driver if they drop something.

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date Reviewed: Jul 1, 2023

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