Car and Street Safety

Baby fastened into a car seat designed for babies, well-padded with straps.

You can take many preventive steps to keep your child safe in the car and on the street. You can also teach your child safe ways cross the street or wait for the bus when you’re not there. We offer:

  • Safety inspections of your child’s car seat by certified technicians.
  • Tips your child can learn about walking or riding in a bus or car.
  • Advice to make travel with children safer and less stressful. 
  • Information for safe travel with children who have special needs.

Car safety

Nearly all car seats checked as part of an OHSU/Safety Center study were installed and/or positioned incorrectly. The 2016 study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, involved random checks of 291 mothers and newborns. It found that 95 percent of car seats were being used improperly.

Your car seat manual and vehicle manual can help you install the seat and straps correctly. You can also visit the Safety Center or a Safety Center outreach event for a free car seat check. We also offer downloadable flyers on car seat and seatbelt safety.

Car seat guidelines

  • Oregon requires that children ride in rear-facing car seats until age 2. The American Academy of Pediatrics and OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital recommend keeping your child rear-facing until he or she reaches the seat’s height and weight limits.
  • Never put a rear-facing car seat in front of an active frontal air bag.
  • In Oregon, children less than 40 pounds must ride in a car seat with a five-point harness. Children who are at least 40 pounds or who have reached their harness system weight must use a booster seat until the adult seat best fits properly. 
  • Make sure the car seat is properly secured. The base of the seat where the seat belt threads through (the “belt path”), should not move more than one inch in any direction. (The top of the seat will still move more than one inch even when properly secured.)
  • Make sure the shoulder harness height is at or below your child's shoulders for rear-facing and at or above your child's shoulders for forward-facing.
  • Position the chest clip in the middle of the chest at armpit level, away from the neck.
  • Don’t use a car seat that has been in an accident.

Get your car seat checked

Free service: Certified child passenger safety technicians will make sure your child is in the correct type of seat and strapped in properly. We’ll also make sure the seat is properly installed. There is no cost to you.

Where: You can make a weekday appointment at Doernbecher or attend one of our community outreach car seat clinics. See our Events calendar on our main Safety Center page.

Make an appointment: Call 503-494-3735 or email safety@ohsu.edu

When your child grows

Children may be ready for an adult seat belt when they can:

  • Sit with their back against the vehicle seat without slouching.
  • Sit with the shoulder belt across the shoulder and chest.
  • Sit with the lap belt low and across the upper thighs.
  • Sit with knees bent at the seat edge when their bottom and back are against the seat back.
  • Stay comfortable in this position the entire ride.

Children with special needs

Safety Center staff members are certified in transporting children who have special health care needs. We offer families free assessments and information. Call 503-494-3735 or email safety@ohsu.edu

Other safety tips

  • All passengers should be properly restrained.
  • Children should be in safety restraints that fit their size and age.
  • Children younger than 13 should sit in the back seat.
  • Never allow passengers to ride in the back of a pickup.
  • Do not use products that did not come with your car seat unless they are specifically approved by the manufacturer.

School bus safety

School buses are one of the safest kinds of transportation, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration statistics show. But it’s important to teach your child about safety on the street and on the bus. That’s particularly true in the 10-foot area around a bus called the “danger zone” where it’s hard for the driver to see.

If your child is in preschool, the highway safety agency recommends he or she be secured in a bus safety seat that fits the child’s weight, height or special needs. 

Find our downloadable Back-to-School Safety flyer.

Here are safety tips for your child to learn:

  • Get to the bus stop at least five minutes early.
  • Stay away from the curb.
  • Pay attention as the bus drives up.
  • Let the bus come to a full stop before getting on.
  • Don’t push or crowd getting on or off the bus.
  • Find a seat, sit down and face forward.
  • Stay seated the entire ride.
  • Listen to the bus driver and follow directions.
  • Keep the aisles clear.
  • Don’t stick anything out of the windows, especially your head or arm.
  • Don’t throw anything in the bus or out a window.
  • Don’t scream or shout.
  • Make sure clothes drawstrings and book bag straps don’t get caught in doors or handrails.
  • Always cross the street in front of the bus while it is stopped. Never cross behind it.
  • Keep away from the bus if you drop something. Don’t try to pick it up without telling the driver.
  • Don’t go into the “danger zone.”
  • Walk at least three giant steps away from the bus.
  • In winter, dress in bright clothes.
  • If you bundle up, make sure you can see and hear traffic.
  • In winter and on rainy days, give the bus more room to stop.

Driveway safety

Most driveway injuries happen because:

  • The driver didn’t see the child.
  • The child fell out of the car.
  • An unattended child shifted a car out of gear.

What you can do

  • Avoid letting your child play in the driveway.
  • If your child does play in the driveway, move the cars and block off the driveway to keep cars from pulling in.
  • When backing out, know where every child is. Count heads to be sure.
  • Install extended mirrors on light trucks and SUVs, which have limited rear view.
  • Never leave the car running.
  • Never leave the keys in the ignition, even if the car is not running.
  • Make sure the gear shift is in Park (automatic) or neutral (manual) and the parking brake is set.
Girl waiting for the signal to change at a crosswalk.

Street safety

It’s important to teach your child how to be safe while walking along or crossing the street. They also can learn how to stay safe while playing in the front yard.

Safety tips

  • Watch them when they’re outdoors. Be especially vigilant if they’re in the front yard.
  • Don’t let them on or near a street if possible.
  • Don’t let them play in driveways.

Teach them to:

  • Stop at the curb or edge of the road before crossing and to never run into the street.
  • Look and listen for traffic to the left, then to the right and then to the left again. Keep looking while crossing the street.
  • Cross at the street corner and walk in crosswalks.
  • Obey traffic signals and signs.
  • Always watch for cars. Drivers may not see them or yield the right of way.
  • Never cross the street between parked cars.

Teach them to:

  • Walk or run facing traffic. Stay to the left if there are no sidewalks.
  • Always be aware of their surroundings.
  • Continue crossing the street if they are halfway when the light changes. Be quick, but don’t run.
  • Wear clothes that can be easily seen after dark. Apply reflective tape or material to the clothes.

Drinking and driving

Almost half of fatal car crashes involving teenagers involve alcohol, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration says. You can use education and vigilance to help keep your child safe.

Things to remember about teen drivers:

  • They are less experienced and skilled than you are, especially at night, at:
    • Detecting and reacting to driving hazards
    • Controlling the car
    • Adjusting speed to conditions
  • They have a lower rate of seat-belt use than adults.
  • Peer pressure, emotions and other stresses can affect their driving.

What to watch for

Signs your child may be abusing alcohol:

  • A decline in school performance
  • High-risk behavior or a sudden change in behavior
  • Money missing from your home

Safety tips

  • Drink responsibly.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Don’t speed or drive recklessly.
  • Require passengers to wear seat belts.
  • Make sure your teen’s car is mechanically safe.
  • Impose penalties for irresponsible driving.
  • Limit the number and age of passengers.
  • Restrict nighttime driving.
  • Delay unsupervised driving until you’re confident in your child’s ability.
  • Help your teen learn driving laws.
  • Make it clear alcohol is illegal for those younger than 21.
  • Explain the harsh consequences of drinking and driving or riding with a driver who has been drinking. Talk about the consequences of being arrested for driving under the influence while underage.
  • Begin to teach your child about alcohol by ages 9 to 11.
  • Teach your child about true friendship so they can resist peer pressure.
  • Encourage your child to talk to you about anything.
  • Encourage teens to choose friends who don’t drink.
  • Insist that teens never get in a car with a drinking driver or friend. Tell your child to call you or another trusted adult for a ride, or tell them to take a taxi you will pay for.
  • Encourage your child to avoid parties with alcohol.

ATV safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no child younger than 16 ride an ATV.

Oregon ATV laws have age, supervision and training requirements for children who ride on public land. There are exemptions for agricultural work and private land. See our downloadable ATV safety flyer.

Children who ride ATVs should:

  • Ride a vehicle with an engine smaller than 90cc.
  • Take a training course from certified instructors.
  • Wear a helmet, boots, long pants and gloves.
  • Ride only during the day.
  • Never carry passengers.

Traveling with children

Remember that lodging away from home may not have child-safety features. Here are tips to  make traveling with children safe and enjoyable:

  • Mentally walk through every aspect of your trip. Make a list of supplies.
  • Talk with your health care provider about emergency care at your destination. Get a pediatrician referral to have on hand.
  • If your child is on medication, make sure you have enough. Keep it with you and take the prescription. Know where you can get more medication or medical supplies.
  • When traveling long distances, take time zones into account when figuring medication intervals.
  • Take a fully stocked first-aid kit.
  • Give your child ID information in case you’re separated. Include:
    • Your child’s name.
    • Your name.
    • Your destination address and phone number.
    • Your home address and phone number.
    • Any medical information.
    • Consider including the name and phone number of a relative.
  • Carry a recent color photo of your child.
  • Always go with children into public restrooms.
  • Give yourself enough time to get where you’re going. Include time for rest stops.
  • If you’re driving, use child restraints.
  • Keep children occupied while driving. Don’t allow them to distract the driver.
  • Check road conditions, closures and construction on state transportation or auto club websites.
  • Pack an emergency road kit that includes a first-aid kit, flashlight, reflectors or flares, food, water and blankets.
  • Some car rental companies supply child-safety seats. Make sure they’re clean, in good condition and properly installed.
  • If your child has trouble with long car rides, consider flying or riding a train or bus. It may be faster and easier on your child and you.
  • If you travel by train or bus, follow safety recommendations.
  • The Air Transport Association and airlines recommend a car seat or child safety seat if your child weighs 40 pounds or less. Most airlines offer discounted fares for small children using safety seats.
  • Holding a small child on your lap is not safe in turbulence or an emergency.
  • If you use a car seat or child safety seat, book a window seat so your child’s seat doesn’t block the escape path.
  • If your child has a medical condition that may be important, tell a flight attendant or gate agent.
  • Call the Federal Aviation Administration’s consumer hot line at 800-322-7873 for more safety recommendations.
  • Find out before you leave if your hotel rooms have child-safety features. If not, pack outlet covers, cabinet door locks and other safety items.
  • If your room has a kitchen, pack covers for stove knobs or remove the knobs.
  • If the hotel has cribs and other child furniture, make sure they’re safe and in good condition. Reserve items in advance.
  • If your hotel, resort or cruise ship offers children’s activities or baby-sitting, make sure the staff is trained. Ask if a doctor is on call.
  • If your child has a disability, learn in advance if hotels, restaurants, transportation carriers and attractions can accommodate special needs. Some hotels offer roll-in showers, flashing-light smoke alarms, lowered light switches and other amenities.
  • Ask about procedures that may be required and about escort services the carrier may provide. Arrange escort services in advance.
  • When making reservations, make it clear your child will be traveling alone.
  • Get to the terminal early. Your child may be able to pre-board, reducing stress.
  • Stay at the terminal until you see the plane, train or bus leave.
  • The people meeting your child at the destination will need proper ID. Ask them to be at the gate before the flight arrives. Tell them about delays or plan changes.
  • Make sure your child contacts you on arrival.
  • Make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about vaccinations that might be needed. Get them in advance in case there’s a reaction.
  • Make sure you have needed medical release forms.
  • Take installable seat belts, child safety seats and child helmets with you. They may be hard to get in some countries.
  • Be careful with exotic foods. Your child’s digestive system may have to adapt gradually.

Safety Center car seat program

Our free service can make sure your car seat is properly installed and right for your child. 

Call 503-494-3735 a weekday appointment with a certified child passenger safety technician.

Attend one of our monthly Saturday Car Seat Clinics.

See our calendar to learn about our free car seat clinics and other upcoming events.

Contact us

503-418-5666
safety@ohsu.edu

Hours and location

9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays or by appointment.

Doernbecher Children's Hospital

700 S.W. Campus Drive
Portland, Oregon 97239

Resources

Visit our Safety Resources page to find brochures you can download and links to safety products in our nonprofit store.

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