Raising children is a constant battle between allowing them to venture into the world outside and keeping them safe for as long as we can.
As much as we cherish those nostalgic childhood moments, they pass all too quickly and grow up. They start by being inquisitive and gradually move on to exploring the world around them which includes more dangerous places.
Take roads for example. Children are the most vulnerable road users since they don’t have the capacity to make sound road-related decisions until the age of 10. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit that helps keep children safe from injuries, accidental pedestrian injuries are the fifth cause of injury-related death in the United States for kids aged 5 to 19.
Instilling pedestrian safety in children isn’t an option; it’s a must.
Why Teach Children Road Safety
Here are more facts that underscore the importance of teaching children the importance of pedestrian safety:
- Globally, over 500 children die every day from road traffic collisions while tens of thousands are injured. Many suffer lifelong disabilities.
- Most child pedestrians are hit in towns and cities with heavy traffic.
- Pedestrian accidents in rural areas are more severe and border on being fatalistic for children because of faster speeding vehicles.
- Children aged 5 to 14 are in greater danger of getting into a fatal accident.
- Most accidents happen between 3 and 6 pm right when children get out of school.
How To Teach the Importance of Road Safety
Since we can’t hold their hands forever, the next best thing is to educate children about the principles of pedestrian safety. Your decision and commitment to do so can mean your child’s safety and your peace of mind.
Discussing the importance of road safety can help protect your children from road traffic injuries. Before you leave them to their own devices, make sure to train them properly.
Here are a few simple yet powerful ways to teach your child how to mind road safety rules:
Be A Role Model
Teach by example. There’s no better way to ingrain in children the importance of road safety rules than by following them yourself. Your child is not going to understand the importance of road safety if you preach one thing and practice something else.
Teach Them To Be Alert
Most accidents occur when our attention is divided. Teach your children to be alert, especially when crossing the road. When out on the street, they shouldn’t be doing anything else.
Alertness decreases as the day wears on. When your child is at school for a good 6 hours or so, they’re not at their most attentive by the end of the day. It’s one of the reasons why most road accidents happen in the afternoon.
To prevent road accidents caused by distraction, introduce them to specific guidelines such as:
- No earphones or earbuds while crossing the road
- No texting or using the smartphone for any purpose
- Obeying the traffic rules
- Looking left and right before crossing the road
Of course, these apply to you too. Set a standard for your kid to follow.
Engage Your Child In Discussion
Children learn best when they’re young. Even before your child is old enough to cross the street on his or her own, it’s important to discuss road safety.
Emphasize how important it is to follow the traffic rules and how dire the consequences of neglecting them can be. Without being overly morbid and descriptive, you can use examples from their favorite movies or cartoons to make your point.
When you cross the road, go around the block, or make a trip to the local supermarket, ask your kid questions about the surroundings. It’s a great and educational way to interact with your child.
Ask questions like:
- What do the different lights mean?
- What should we do before we cross the road?
- Where should we cross the road?
- What’s the use of sidewalks?
- Why do we hold hands before we cross the street?
- When should we cross the road?
Keep talking to them about road safety even when they’re old enough to start crossing the road on their own so they don’t forget.
Let Them Go Solo
Once you teach your kids all there is to know about pedestrian safety and they’ve reached the right age, test them by gradually giving them more and more freedom to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
Keep in mind that everyone has their own learning pace. If kids aren’t confident yet about crossing roads on their own, that’s okay. Just continue providing them with guidance and reinforcing good road safety behavior until they become ready.
Your child’s readiness to cross and navigate the road on their own depends on how much practice they’ve had. By now, your kid should know that even if they follow road safety rules to the letter, there will always be drivers who won’t. They should therefore act accordingly and keep their guards up whenever they’re outside.
You can always:
- Supervise your children when they cross the road.
- Help them determine how far a vehicle is and the speed it’s driving at.
- Have them wear bright, vibrant clothes.
Child Pedestrian Safety Tips
Now that you know how to engage children on the importance of pedestrian safety, let’s review specific child pedestrian guidelines that we need to teach them. You can use this section as a checklist against what you’re already teaching to see if you might have missed anything.
Always Look Both Ways
Walk side by side with them when you’re outside and teach them not to cross the road without looking left and right first even if the road looks empty.
Walk On The Sidewalk
Teach them to walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If a road has no sidewalks, they should walk in the direction of the traffic to avoid accidents. When doing so, they must keep as far away from traffic as possible and stay alert.
Always Hold Hands When Crossing The Road
If your child is under 10, always hold their hand especially when crossing the street. Children should always cross the street with an adult since they can’t determine the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles yet at this age.
Keep holding your child’s hand when crossing the road until they’re familiar with the traffic rules and the precautions they need to take to avoid road accidents.
Only Cross When There Are Safe Gaps
Safe gaps refer to the room in between vehicles or traffic where it is safe to maneuver and cross the road. This is an instinct that we all eventually learn as we navigate the roads. Teach your child not to cross until he or she sees a safe gap in traffic.
You can slowly train your child to identify and act on safe gaps by asking him or her if there is a safe gap before you cross the road together.
Choose Safe Routes
Teach your child to identify and use safe routes. Safe routes are routes that are accessible and have good visibility or lighting even at night.
Never Chase Anything On The Road
Children move fast. One minute they’re playing in your backyard and running down the street the next. Many pedestrian accidents involve children chasing balls and other toys down the street without looking.
You can also prevent this by putting a fence around the play area as well as telling them to never run down the street to retrieve a toy. If they need to do so, have them ask an adult to get it for them or remind them that they must always look both ways — no exceptions.
Keep Them Off Driveways
Emphasize the importance of staying away from the garage and driveways. Children’s smaller heights make them less visible. This can result in accidents, on and off the road.
The Takeaway: Preach and Practice Road Safety
Instilling pedestrian safety in your children from a young age can prevent road accidents. While it’s important to teach them specific guidelines on road safety, it’s equally important to set an example.
Engage them in discussion, give them real-life practice, and be an inspiration for them to follow.