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Vehicle Safety

It is our job to keep children safe in our programs and when they are on the move. This lesson will help you ensure vehicle safety rules and procedures are followed when transporting children.

  • Summarize driver and attendant qualifications
  • Select safety items for a vehicle safety kit
  • Practice a daily pre-trip vehicle safety inspection
  • Apply safety guidelines when transporting children by car, van, school bus, or other vehicles



Your program may offer transportation to children for a variety of reasons. These range from daily transportation to and from the program to an occasional field trip. Regardless of how often you transport children, you need to know how to keep them safe on the road.

To transport children, standard adult-to-child ratios must be maintained. You must have permission to transport children. In the previous lesson on Special Considerations for Trips Away from your Program, the Apply section has a sample field trip permission form template. Talk to your administrator about your program's procedures for permission slips.

Driver Qualifications

The driver of any vehicle transporting children must (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011):

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be licensed to drive the vehicle (a commercial license may be necessary)
  • Have a safe driving record for at least five years
  • Have no criminal record involving crimes against children or involving drugs or violence
  • Have no medical conditions that impair the ability to drive
  • Have no alcohol or prescription drugs that would affect the ability to safely drive a vehicle within the past 12 hours
  • Agree not to smoke in or near the vehicle

Do not transport children in your personal vehicle.

Attendant Qualifications

In addition to the driver, at least one adult should be present in a vehicle transporting children. While the driver focuses on road safety, an attendant focuses on keeping the children safe in the vehicle. The attendant is responsible for monitoring health and safety needs and ensuring safe behavior. The attendant should have training or experience in child development or early-childhood education. This person should also have valid first-aid training and certification.


Vehicle Safety

A vehicle safety kit should be stored securely in any vehicle used to transport children. These items should only be accessible to the driver, attendant, and emergency responders. These include:

  • First-aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Seat-belt cutter
  • Maps
  • Charged cell phone
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the school-age program
  • Emergency contact information for each child
  • Any prescribed medications for a particular child (breathing treatments, epinephrine injector, etc.)


The staff should conduct a daily pre-trip safety inspection. Make sure the vehicle is clean. There should not be any obstructions on the floor or seats. The Apply section contains a sample pre-trip inspection form. Talk to your administrator about the forms you will use in your program. Note and correct any problems, such as low tire pressure or dirty windshields. Vehicle maintenance records, driver's license numbers, license plate information, and insurance information should be stored on-site and in the vehicle as appropriate.

Child Safety

Keeping children safe in a moving vehicle is a serious matter and a major responsibility. Safety involves proper seating, vehicle conditions, transportation policies and procedures, and child behavior. The following guidelines will help you keep children safe.

In a car or van:

  • Use a car seat or child-restraint system. Follow local, state, and federal laws. For young school-age children a booster seat may be necessary.
  • Make sure you know how to install the seat correctly. Check that the seat is installed correctly and the child is secured correctly before the vehicle moves.
  • Never allow a child to sit in the front seat of a vehicle.
  • Replace a car seat if it has been recalled, involved in an accident, or is beyond the manufacturer's "date of use."

In a school bus:

  • Use an approved child safety restraint system designed for children under 50 pounds.
  • Make sure the restraint system is installed and used correctly.
  • Do not place restraint systems in emergency exit rows.
  • Have a plan for evacuating children from the bus. Practice your plan.
  • Make sure there is a spot to secure a forward-facing wheelchair with four tie-downs.
  • Remember any vehicle that can hold more than 10 people is considered a bus, but large passenger vans are not approved for use as school buses unless they meet certain standards.

In all vehicles:

  • Never leave a child alone.
  • Make sure the temperature is safe and comfortable. Children are not always dressed for the weather. Use the air conditioning if the internal temperature reaches 82°F. Use the heater if the internal temperature drops below 65°F.
  • Do a name-to-face count when children enter and exit the vehicle. Use your attendance sheet.
  • Check the vehicle to make sure no child has been left behind.
  • Lock the vehicle once you are sure no children are inside.
  • Teach children safety rules for transportation. These include wearing a seat belt and staying seated.
  • Only pick up and drop off at the curb or at an off-street location.
  • Make sure a parent or guardian observes the pick-up and drop-off procedures. Stay with the child until the parent or guardian verbally and physically takes responsibility for the child.
  • Record attendance and time of each pick-up and drop-off.
  • Take into account individual children’s health, behavior, or mobility needs when planning where and how to secure children.

Be sure to follow your program's policies and guidelines for transporting school-age children.


It is important to think about problems that might occur related to vehicle safety. Review the Vehicle Safety Scenarios activity. Read the scenarios and answer the questions that follow. Share your responses with a trainer, coach or administrator. Then compare your answers to the suggested responses.


Be aware of the procedures and protocols for vehicle use in your program. Review this sample pre-trip inspection form and talk to your administrator, trainer, or coach about the specific guidelines for your workplace. 


Forward-facing safety seat:
This is a child-safety restraint system that is positioned with the child’s face and body facing the front of the vehicle. It is always used in the back seat of a vehicle. It is only safe for children over 20 pounds
Rear-facing safety seat:
This is a child-safety restraint system that is positioned with the child’s face and body facing the rear of the vehicle. It is always used in the back seat of a vehicle. Rear-facing safety seats are recommended until a child is 2 years old or exceeds the manufacturer’s weight limit
School bus:
Any approved vehicle that can carry at least 10 people. It must meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety standards. Large passenger vans meet the standards if they comply with the motor vehicle standards prescribed for school buses and multifunction school activity buses under NHTSA’s 2005 guidelines


True or false? School-age children can be left alone in a vehicle as long as the air conditioner is running.
Who can be counted in the staff-to-child ratio in a vehicle?
Which of the following is not part of a typical vehicle safety kit?
References & Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2019). Caring for our children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs. (4th ed.). American Academy of Pediatrics. 

National Association for the Education of Young Children (2007). Early childhood program standards and accreditation criteria: The mark of quality in early childhood education. National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (1999). Guidelines for the transportation of preschool-aged children