Accidents and injuries - Keeping your child safe 'out and about'

  • When transporting a baby by car, always use a correctly fitted, age appropriate rear facing car seat.
  • Never put a rear facing car seat in the front seat with an active air bag.
  • Move the baby to a front facing car seat only when they outgrow their rear facing seat (by exceeding the weight limit or becoming too tall). Try to keep them in a rear facing seat for as long as possible. The law requires that all children under 135 cm tall or the age 12 (whichever comes first) use an appropriate car seat or restraint when travelling by car.
  • Do not leave babies or toddlers unattended in cars.
  • Strap your baby securely into their car seat or buggy at all times – take care to ensure they are properly strapped in when wearing bulky clothing.
  • Keep toddlers away from the buggy when it is being folded to avoid trapped fingers.

Road accidents account for a third of accidental deaths among 0-14 year olds and over half of accidental deaths for 5-14 year olds. In 2011, 2,412 children under the age of 16 were killed or seriously injured on the roads. Don’t take the risk - teach your children about road safety - click here

0-4’s Talking about traffic with your child when you’re out and about is one of the best ways for him or her to learn:

  • Play ‘spotting’ games: where’s a lorry? Can you find a bus? Let’s see who can spot a taxi first.
  • Ask your child to tell you about the vehicles waiting at the traffic lights or passing you in the car.
  • Talk about vehicles you see: which is biggest or fastest? What colours are they? Which carries the most people? Which way is it going? Do some counting.
  • Building up your child’s language will help him or her to understand traffic: use words to describe speed, size, shape, directions or talk about signs, lights, signals and road markings.
  • Talk about how we can tell when traffic is near or when it is coming towards us, asking your child when cars are safe and when they can be dangerous
  • Use a harness or wrist strap when toddlers are walking near to roads and walk with the adult kerb-side
  • Learn about road traffic safety through the Children's Traffic Club

Over 5’s - Teach them the Green Cross Code


1. First find the safest place to cross

  • If possible, cross the road at: subways, footbridges, islands, zebra, puffin, pelican or toucan crossings, or where there is a crossing point controlled by a police officer, a school crossing patrol or a traffic warden.
  • Otherwise, choose a place where you can see clearly in all directions, and where drivers can see you.
  • Try to avoid crossing between parked cars and on sharp bends or close to the top of a hill. Move to a space where drivers and riders can see you clearly.
  • There should be space to reach the pavement on the other side.

2. Stop just before you get to the kerb

  • Do not get too close to the traffic. If there is no pavement, keep back from the edge of the road but make sure you can still see approaching traffic.
  • Give yourself lots of time to have a good look all around.

3. Look all around for traffic and listen

  • Look all around for traffic and listen.
  • Look in every direction.
  • Listen carefully because you can sometimes hear traffic before you can see it.

4. If traffic is coming, let it pass

  • Look all around again and listen.
  • Do not cross until there is a safe gap in the traffic and you are certain that there is plenty of time.
  • Remember, even if traffic is a long way off, it may be approaching very quickly.

5. When it is safe, go straight across the road – do not run

  • Keep looking and listening for traffic while you cross, in case there is any traffic you did not see, or in case other traffic appears suddenly.
  • Look out for cyclists and motorcyclists traveling between lanes of traffic.
  • Do not cross diagonally.

How you can help your child and other children

  • Set a good example. Use the Green Cross Code yourself.
  • Show your child how to use the Code to cross the road when you’re out and about.
  • Let your child show you that they know how to cross the road safely – start practising on quiet roads first.
  • Point out dangerous places to cross on local roads. Point out safer places as well. Some places may be safer at some times of the day than at others.
  • Use pedestrian crossings even if it involves a small detour.
  • Talk about the importance of not using a mobile phone or texting while crossing the road.
  • Remind your child that they cannot hear traffic if listening to music through earphones or see it properly if wearing a large hood.

But let’s get one thing clear: it’s still important for children to be outside.
Walking is good for children's health and fitness and we support parents who encourage their children to walk as much as possible. Taking your child in the car for short journeys puts more traffic on the road and adds to the problem.
Children can be safer on the streets if we show them how.

Crossing between parked cars

Try not to cross between parked vehicles, but if there is nowhere else to cross:

  • Choose a place where there is a space between two cars and make sure that it is easy to get to the pavement on the other side of the road.
  • Make sure neither car is about to move off - look for drivers in the cars, lights and listen for engines.
  • Don't cross near large vehicles. You could be standing in a blind spot, where the driver cannot see you.

The biggest concern of adults when it comes to children walking and cycling to school is traffic danger.

This fear has driven children into the backseat to be ferried around, with 42% of primary school children now being driven to school.

Once your child is confident on their bike, getting them used to cycling on the roads will develop them in many ways. Not only will they gain a sense of freedom and independence, they’ll also improve their confidence and fitness.

How to teach road safety to your children.

Follow these basics to help you and your child stay safe when cycling:

  • make sure your child's bike fits and that all your bikes are roadworthy;
  • if you're on the road with children, take up a position behind them. If there are two adults in your group, it's a good idea to have one at the back and one in front of the children;
  • helmets are particularly recommended for young children. Ultimately, wearing a helmet is a question of individual choice and parents need to make that choice for their children;
  • set a good example, follow the Highway Code and teach children road safety and awareness.

To find out about courses that help your child gain the confidence to cycle to school, phone the National Cycle Training Helpline on 0844 736 8460/8461. Or find out if your child's school offers Bikeability or Bike It - if your school doesn't have either, pester them!

Teach your child about cycle safety using the tales of the road resources

Twelve children under 10 are killed or injured as passengers in cars every day. Car seats prevent deaths and serious injury.

Did you know…?

  • Adult seat belts are not designed for children as they don't sit across the right parts of the body. If a child isn't in the right booster or car seat, they can be injured by the seat belt in a crash.
  • The law says that children under 3 are not allowed to travel anywhere in a car without an appropriate child restraint – usually a baby or child car seat. This is also very good safety advice.
  • Trying to hold a small baby in a car crash at 30mph would be like trying to lift 8 bags of cement at the same time.
  • All children under 12 years old who are under 135cm in height have to use a child restraint. It’s the law.

General car safety tips

  • A child can legally travel in the front of the car but it’s always safest for them to travel in the back if possible.
  • It can be almost impossible to tell, just by looking, if a second hand car seat has been damaged in an accident or dropped. So buying second hand seats isn’t safe for your baby or child. It may be safe to use a seat a friend or family member has given you, but only if you know for certain it’s not been damaged or dropped, and it fits your car properly.
  • Not all car seats will fit all cars so choosing the best one for the weight and height of the child is really important.
  • Most accidents happen in short journeys close to home so make sure car seats are easy to fit – If it’s hard to fit then it may be tempting not to use it on shorter journeys.
  • Try your car seat before you buy it, fix the restraint into the car as tightly as you can and check that it doesn’t move to the front or side and make sure the seat buckle doesn’t rest on the frame of the child seat. If you are having problems with your car seat you can try a different position in the car. If your childminder or a grandparent takes your child in their car, make sure that they are using the right seat and that they put your child in it properly on every journey. If you give them your seat when you drop off your child, be sure that it fits their car and they know how to use it.
  • Seats with ISOFIX attachments are easier to install in cars than those that rely on the adult seat belt. Also, they are usually more secure. Check to see if you can fit an ISOFIX seat into your car.
  • i-Size is the new European-wide standard for child car seats. It is designed to provide children with extra protection in the car. i-Size compliant car seats are just coming onto the market and are designed to fit 'i-Size ready' cars.

Babies (up to 13 kg, group 0+ seats)

  • New babies travel in rear-facing baby seats that are in group 0 or 0+. Most manufacturers are no longer making group 0 though. From the moment your new baby comes home from the hospital they need to be travelling in a rear-facing baby seat.
  • They are safest in the back seat of your car. If they do travel in the front seat the airbag must be turned off as this could seriously injure your baby in a crash.

Toddlers (9-18 kg, group 1 seats)

  • Just because your baby has reached 9 kg does not mean that he or she should be moved to a forward-facing (group 1) seat.
  • Don’t worry if your baby’s feet are pressing against the back of the car seat when they’re in their rear-facing seat. It’s still better for them to stay in it until they reach the weight limit for their baby seat or the top of their head is at the top of the seat.
  • Most group 1 seats are forward-facing but some rear-facing ones are available. These can cause problems in some cars so it is even more important that you try them in your car before you buy them.

Children up to 12 (15 kg upwards, group 2 and 3 seats)

  • When your child grows out of their car seat they can move to the next type of seat, usually a booster seat. It’s better to keep your child in their group 1 seat for as long as it fits as they offer more protection than booster seats (group 2/3).
  • You will need to move your child to a booster seat when their eye-line is above the child seat back though. This is because they could suffer neck injuries if they are too tall for the seat. While a booster cushion is better than nothing at all, it offers no side impact or head protection. A highback booster seat is the safest option for your child.
  • When your child is 12 or over, or taller than 135cm they can legally move to the adult seat belt. Lots of booster seats grow upwards and outwards with your child so can still be used.
  • Even if your child is over 135cm it may be that the adult seat belt lies on their tummy and neck rather than on the strongest parts of their bodies - the hips, chest and shoulder. They will be better protected if you keep them in a booster seat designed for their weight as long as you can.

Around the car

  • If a car is reversing in a car park or a driveway the driver may not be able to spot small children if they are below the level visible from their rear or side windows. It’s safest to hold your child’s hand in car parks just as you would when crossing the road.
  • Store your car keys safely to reduce the risk of your child getting hold of them and starting the car.