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Rules for the Ride: Car Safety

There are so many rules about child passenger safety that many parents are confused. What’s important for your children to know is that parents enforce rules as well as set them. Here are some child safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that you can use to answer your children’s questions about safety seats. Remember, every rule has a reason, a why. Remind children that your why is to keep them safe.

Why do I have to buckle up? We’re just going around the corner to grandma’s house?

Everybody must be in a child safety seat, booster seat, or safety belt. People who are not buckled in can be thrown from the car or inside the car and can get really hurt.

When I ride with Jacob’s mom, she lets us share a seatbelt because there aren’t enough belts for all four kids in the back.

There must be one safety belt for each person. It’s our family rule, and it’s the law. Buckling up two people, even young children, into one belt could make both get hurt.

But why can’t we sit way back in the van? There’s even space to lie down.

No one—children or adults—can ride in the back of a van, pickup truck, or station wagon. It’s the law. People could get thrown around and hurt or even thrown out of the car.

Please, let me sit up front. Kira keeps bothering me. I’ll put on my seatbelt.

No one under the age of 13 should ride in the front seat. It’s the law. If the airbags should open, you could get seriously hurt. You have to be able to sit up straight with your back against the back of the seat, your knees bent over the seat, and your feet flat on the floor. You’ll have to wait until you grow much bigger.

It's important to enforce car safety rules in your family and in your car. It also is important to make sure others who drive your children know and follow these car safety rules.


  • Child Passenger Safety (excellent Government site with specific chart of rules) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has tips and fact sheets in English and Spanish (from general car seat safety to safety on school buses for preschoolers).
  • Safe Kids USA. Find safety tips and statistics that help young children stay safe.
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Updated on 3/21/2012