Child care supervision tips: transportation and field trip safety

By: Libby Reed 
Risk Solutions Specialist 

Child care centers may have transportation exposures with potential safety issues, whether those exposures are routine pick-ups, drop-offs, or class field trips. If your business provides any transportation services to children, all staff members must understand the high-risk nature of these operations and be trained to help prevent accidents (North Carolina DHHS Division of Child Development and Early Education, n.d.). Keeping children safe in these instances means always maintaining proper supervision, never leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, and accounting for all children in attendance at key intervals. 

One of the most important reasons to train staff on transportation safety is to prevent children from being left behind on a bus or other vehicle when arriving at a destination. Additionally, extreme weather temperatures may come into play and threaten children’s well-being while sitting in a vehicle. Some tips for reducing the likelihood of accidents are: 

  • Create a roster list of all children riding in the vehicle to check for attendance. 
  • Post notices in and around the vehicle advising drivers never to leave children unattended. 
  • Perform a physical check after children have exited the vehicle to confirm no children have been left behind. Small children may be difficult to see, so walk through the entire vehicle as a preventative measure. 
  • Keep keys away and out of reach from children to prevent them from locking themselves inside a vehicle. 
  • Ensure the temperature of the vehicle cabin is safe and comfortable for occupants, particularly in very hot and cold weather. According to the National Safety Council (2023), on average, 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. 

During field trips or other off-site activities, staff or individuals supervising children must remain diligent in accounting for the presence and health of children in their care. At a minimum, centers must comply with state and local agency standards for supervision and staff-to-child ratios. In addition, staff may find it helpful to: 

  • Review safety rules and trip expectations with children in an age-appropriate manner. Ensure they know what to do if they are accidentally separated from the group. 
  • Reference their attendance roster at each transition point during the trip (e.g., arriving at the destination, moving to a different area or room, before and after breaks and mealtimes, preparing to depart the location, etc.). Call each child’s name and visually confirm their presence. 
  • If the attendees break out into smaller groups with different chaperones, coordinate the effort will all supervisors, provide attendance lists, and maintain open lines of communication. 
  • Do not leave children unattended during the trip and have a supervision plan for when children need to leave their group for restroom breaks or other reasons. 
  • Consider implementing a method of identifying children in your group using stickers, lanyards, or matching clothing showing the name of your program and contact information. 

National Safety Council. (2023). Motor vehicle safety issues: Hot car deaths. NSC Injury Facts.                                                                               

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Be on the safe side: Field trip and transportation safety. NCDHHS Division of Child Development and Early Education. 

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