Staying safe when you're out and about
Which car seat should I buy? When should I teach my child the Green Cross Code? There are so many questions about taking children out, but with the right equipment you can keep your children safe while they explore the world.
Did you know…?
- Young children (up to the age of 9) can’t judge distance in the same way as adults. They don’t know how fast a car or bike is going, and how long they have to cross the road.
- The law says that all children under 12 and under 135cm should have a proper child restraint in the car. Older and taller ones can legally wear an adult seat belt, but they are still safest in a booster seat. More on safety in the car.
- Holding a baby in the car is harder than you might think. In a 30mph crash you’d need the same strength to hold onto them as you would to lift 8 bags of cement.
Safety reminders – keeping children safe outside
There are many things that could make you nervous when taking your baby out. Luckily, with the right equipment you can make sure your baby is as safe as possible wherever you go.
In the car. There are so many different types of car seat - it can be hard to choose the best one. Car seats for babies (group 0 and 0+) are rear facing and safest in the back seat. If you do use them in the front seat it’s essential to turn off the air bag so they don’t get crushed by it in a crash. Never buy a second-hand baby car seat – you won’t know by looking at it whether it has already been dropped or in a crash. Find out more about keeping your child safe in the car.
Pushchair. Check for a five-point harness so you can strap your baby in safely. It’s safe to buy one second-hand, as long as there is no damage and you know how to use it properly.
Toddlers – from about 12 months onwards
Secure seats and harnesses mean toddlers can explore their new world without getting into trouble!
In the car. Keep your child in their rear-facing car seat for as long as it fits as they are safer than forward facing seats. But once their eye line is above the back of the seat they need to move to move to forward-facing seats (group 1).
In a pushchair. Toddlers love to wriggle and move about! A securely fastened five-point harness stops your child falling out of their pushchair.
Children of this age are much more mobile. Alongside proper equipment, they need a lot of supervision.
In the car. 3-5 year olds can sit in a front-facing car seat, but they’re old enough to start making trouble! They might try to undo the straps or squirm out of the seat. A play-tray can help to distract them from escaping. Because of their inquisitive nature, they’re best not left alone in the car.
Walking. The street is an exciting place, with lots of new sights and sounds. Children this young need lots of hand-holding and supervision. You can set a good example – talk to them about road safety when you’re out - but don’t expect them to remember the rules for themselves just yet.
You can start to teach children the Green Cross Code, but they are still too little to remember everything. It’s good to start building good habits when you’re out and about.
In the car. Children of this age will still need to use a booster seat. The packaging will tell you what age/height it’s suitable for. Start teaching children good habits by getting them to double check they’re strapped in before you head off.
Walking. All children under 9 need help from an adult when crossing the road. Teaching them the basics can be fun, and will give them a good start in road safety. Their school may run schemes to help teach them road safety but you still have a key role to play.
By bike. A child’s first bike is a really exciting thing, but at this age they’re not ready for road cycling. Helmets are essential, not just when they’re learning, but every time they get on a bike and wherever they cycle. Getting into the habit makes it easier for them to remember their helmet when they’re older. More on cycle safety
Older children can start to learn why the rules are important. This is a great stage to teach young ones how to keep themselves safe when you’re out and about.
In the car. At this age some children can become annoyed at having to use a booster or car seat or even still use a “child” seat if they are small. Many children will understand if you explain why they’re safer.
Walking. 7-11s are at real risk from road accidents. They are easily distracted and may run out quickly. They may also struggle to judge speed and distances very well. But, they are ready to learn the Green Cross Code, and the earlier they learn, the safer they will be.
By bike. Older children who love cycling will want to experiment and push boundaries. They might show off in front of their friends, or cycle further and faster. They’re not old enough to cycle alone in busy roads yet, but with the right supervision you can teach older children how to ride on the roads safely. Look for cycle training schemes such as Bikeability in your area. More on cycle safety
For more road safety info, check out our out and about factsheet.