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Staying Safe in the Car and on the Bus

Medically reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD

Now that you don’t have to be in a booster seat anymore, there are some things to know about staying safe in cars. There’s also stuff you can do to stay safe when you ride the bus — and get on and off it.

How Can I Stay Safe in a Car?

Wear your seatbelt every time you ride in a car. If the car 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’s separate from the lap belt, so you need to buckle both. Or they might have just a belt across the lap.

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 — you could both get hurt if an accident happens.

Why Do I Have to Get in the Back?

Kids 12 years old and younger need to ride in the back seat because it's the safest place to be.

Air bags in the front of the car 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? Tell the driver that kids should sit in the back. If you have to sit in the front, 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. 

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.

Can I Get in a Car By Myself?

Don’t ever get in a car alone. You might not be able to get out and that could be dangerous. If you need something from a car, like a toy, ask a grown-up to get it for you. And if you’re playing a game, like hide-and-seek, don’t hide in a car. There are much better hiding spots that are safer.

If you’re in a car and can’t get out, honk the horn to get someone’s attention.

How Can I Stay Safe When Riding the Bus?

When riding the bus, you need to think about being a careful passenger and about how to get on and off the bus safely. No matter how often you ride the bus, 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 driver says it's OK to step onto the bus. The driver is the only one who can see all the traffic and make sure it's safe. (If you must cross the street to board, wait for the bus to come to a full stop and for the driver to flash the red lights.)
  • Once you're on the bus, be sure to listen to the driver's instructions.

What Are Other Rules for Bus Safety?

  • Buckle up. As with riding in a car, buckle up (if the bus has seatbelts). If the bus is in an accident, the seatbelt will keep you from bouncing around.
  • Stay seated. 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 careful getting off. When you step down off the bus, hold onto the handrail and be careful that your backpack or book bag doesn't get caught on the rail or in the door.
  • Don’t walk behind the bus. After you exit the bus, never walk behind it. If you have to cross in front, walk on the sidewalk way out in front of the bus, make sure 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.

Following these simple rules means you'll be more protected during a car or bus trip — and have more fun!

Medically reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: July 2023