Traffic Safety

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Keeping kids safe when getting out of the car

Sept 2008

Does anyone have any great tricks for keeping kids safe (ie. near you) when you are getting in the car. (Getting out is easier, because I just take her out of her car seat last.) Seems I always have my hands full of toddler and ''stuff,'' and if I put her down for a second, she can move so quickly. I've tried ''touch the car door,'' and that works for a minute. Or, stay right here near mommy; works for 30 seconds. Now I see why people use those harnesses. Just want to tap into others' creativity. thanks lisa

If you're carrying too much stuff to hold on to your toddler while unlocking the car and opening the door, you need to find a better way to carry either the stuff or the toddler!

For the stuff, try using a shopping cart, backpack, stroller or whatever else makes sense for the given stuff and given errand. Get kid buckled into carseat before you load the stuff.

For the toddler, try using a shopping cart (keep kid in cart seat while you open the car), backpack (e.g., Ergo, or other ''baby'' carrier that works well for older kids -- there are quite a few), or stroller. ;-)

You can also try, as an alternative to the ''leash'', having your daughter hold on to a scarf or purse strap or something of the sort that you are wearing. She's not forcibly restrained that way, but it's easy for you to keep tabs on her and remind her to grab hold again if she lets go. (You might impose a rule that if she can't remember to hold on, you will have to hold her hand or put her in the carrier/cart/stroller.)

Also: Keep your car keys in your pocket or some other readily accessible place, so you won't have to dig through a purse for them. And of course, keep working on training your child to stay within arms' reach of you any time you are in a parking lot or other place where cars can go. You can spring a ''pop quiz'' on her from time to time when you are just walking along: ''Can you touch me?'' If not, she's too far away. If so, you might hand her a small prize (a penny, an M, whatever little thing she would like). Eventually she will be old enough to overcome the impulse to run off, most of the time. And meanwhile, you'll be getting better at managing the ''stuff'' while also keeping track of her. You do get better at it! Holly

Hi- I always ALWAYS load and unload the kiddo on the curb side - stil do at age 9. I am astonished at how often I see little 3 yr olds standing on a busy street waiting to be let into the car. Or even strollers sitting in the street on busy streets like MLK waiting for the door to be opened. I let the kid in first, then close and lock the door then walk around to enter myself on the driver's side. michael
Yes, I have a trick that is easy and works! I have two kids and am always lugging soemthing around. Just tell your child to ''hang on to my leg'' I actually have her hang on with both arms holding my leg (thigh) as I am doing whatever it is I am doing... and that way I KNOW that she is right there with me and that she is safe and now she is ''trained' and KNOWS that she does not let works and it's easy! good luck! safemom

Worried about toddler running into traffic

Sept 2007

Ok, this may sound dumb. My 2yr old (boy!) is quite enamored with all cars and trucks, and ceaselessly stops, points and squeals when he sees any sort of SUV, pickup truck or delivery truck. This is all fine. I work with a very strict rule that he MUST hold my hand whenever we are walking in a parking lot, side walk, etc., and I am very vigilant making sure that my body is visible to cars and is positioned between them and him. I am very worried that some day he will break free and run up to the cars. He can not be in a stroller forever. I am at a loss at how to start instructing him \x96 I can\x92t say \x93Do not go near cars\x94, because we go near them in parking lots, or I can not say \x93Do not stand by cars\x94, because he may be invisible to a driver and backed over by an SUV and it does not make sense to say \x93Run away from cars.\x94 How does one instruct one so little and lacking in impulse control in these situations? anon

Well, I can't say this method will be for everyone, but what worked for my oldest was finding a squirrel squished flat in the road one day! It became an accidental object lesson -- he learned that moving cars were dangerous, in a way that was just abstract enough not to truly frighten him but was highly memorable. Even without roadkill, I think 2yrs is old enough to explain that he has to be careful around cars because he's too short to be seen, and that he has to stay on the sidewalk or hold your hand when there isn't one, stop at curbs and wait for you to help him cross, etc. My boys are 2 and 4 and they (while equally vehicle obsessed as yours) understand these rules, and follow them most of the time (though of course I'm still watchful, especially with the 2yo). I think your son is probably more instructable than you give him credit for. Be careful, but don't worry
Dear Anon, you have not asked a dumb question! Each year approximately 15,000 American children under the age of 10 are injured as pedestrians, and more than 320 are killed. Children ages 5 \xd0 9 years are at high risk for pedestrian injury.

Parent supervision is the strongest predictor of child safety. Holding your child\xd5s hand when crossing a street is a great prevention measure. When you're walking with your child, talk to him about your safe pedestrian behaviors, and why you do what you do. Model safe pedestrian behavior for your child. Whenever possible, practice walking a chosen safe route with your child.

Teach a young child to 1) ask a parent/caregiver before walking anywhere without them, 2) use sidewalks and 3)watch for cars pulling out of driveways.

Children who have parent permission to cross the street should be taught to: 1) choose the safest route to walk with the fewest streets to cross 2) cross at a crosswalk 3) Stop at the curb and look left, right, left 4) obey traffic signals, 5) always look for cars themselves 6) watch for cars turning or pulling out of driveways 7) make eye contact with the driver or wave arms in the air to be sure the driver sees them at an intersection or in a driveway, 8) know the difference between brake lights and back up lights 9) walk at least 10 feet in front of a bus or large motor vehicle and NEVER behind it, because the driver cannot see this area, and 10) never run out in the street to retrieve a toy or ball. Let it go. Ask an adult for help.

There are also ways to get your community involved. When your child is school age, you can work with your school to develop a well-designed drop-off and pick up procedure and organize a walking school bus \xd0 A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults.

I also must highlight another preventable injury due to Backovers. In the U.S., at least 50 children are backed over by vehicles in driveways and parking lots because they cannot be seen. At least two of these children die. Backovers happen when a child is hidden in a vehicle\xd5s blind zone \xd0 the area behind the vehicle that the driver cannot see. All vehicles have blind zones, which tend to grow with vehicle size. For more information about how to prevent these tragedies, and keeping your child safe in and around cars, I encourage you to check out

For more information about pedestrian safety and organizing your community to encourage and enable children to walk and bike to school, check out If you have additional questions about child safety, please feel free to email me at dwiltsek [at] Take care - you're doing a great job! Dana

My son is also two and obsessed with cars and trucks! Join the club!

I think you're right that you can't teach him ''stay away from cars'' or any rule like that, since he's too young to make distinctions between safely parked cars and possibly dangerous parked cars.

So I'd stick with the excellent rule you already have -- that he MUST hold your hand EVERY TIME you tell him to do so. In case he breaks loose from your hand, I'd also work on the ''STOP!'' rule, which I practice with my son as a kind of game. It's useful for more than cars -- today my son was running ahead of me on the path while we were walking at Point Isabel, and I told him ''STOP'' when he began to approach a potentially dangerous breed of dog. It worked, and I caught up with him in time to pick him up.

Just wait until they start driving themselves ... then we'll really worry! Nicole R.

I don't know where your son is on the 2-year-old spectrum, but impulse control should show up at some level soon. (33-months for my oldest...starting to show up in my 30-month old) Until then, keep repeating 'touch the car' or 'hold my hand.' Touch the car will give you a second to put things into the car before putting him in it. Also, keep telling him that 'cars can't see him because he is still small, but cars can see you' as an explanation for holding his hand. jan