As summer vacation descends upon us, kids will be out & about. Parents and drivers are reminded to be the eyes and ears of the youngest members of our families. With the influx of little feet running around town, pedestrian activity spikes during the summer months. Pedestrian injury is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 5 to 14, claiming the lives of about 600 children annually.
Some of the reasons why children under age 10 are unsafe, at-risk pedestrians:
- Darting out into traffic, perhaps chasing after a toy or a pet.
- Erroneously believing that if they can see the driver, the driver can see them.
- Assuming a green light means it is always safe to cross.
- Believing drivers will always stop if they are at a crosswalk.
- Not taking into account how long it actually takes cars to come to a complete stop.
- Uncertainty determining the source which direction sound is coming from.
- Peripheral vision is significantly less than that of an adult.
- Difficulty gauging the speed or distance of a moving vehicle.
Children simply do not have the cognitive abilities to be safe pedestrians. Both parents and drivers should be educated about the most common types of accidents, how to prevent them as both a pedestrian and a driver, how to teach children to be safe and how to improve pedestrian safety in their communities.
Here are some things you can do to increase safety for child pedestrians:
- Supervise them at all times. Preschoolers should never be allowed to cross the street alone, and you should always hold their hand while crossing the street.
- Teach by explaining. Explain what you are doing as you do it. For example, if you are crossing the street together, you should say, “When I cross the street, I always stop at the curb. Then I look and listen for cars. First I look left, then right, then left again. If it’s clear, then I can cross, while I keep looking for cars.” If your child can’t tell the difference between left and right, you can say “this way” and “that way.” You can also point out others who are exhibiting safe or unsafe behaviors (quietly, of course).
- Teach by example. Your behavior should be an example for your children. They are watching you to show them how to do the right thing.
- Praise them. Encourage safe behavior by praising them for copying your actions or words.
[Children ages 5-10]
- Accompany them. Young children should have an adult or older child with them every day until they show they can safely cross the street. Don’t overestimate their abilities.
- Make sure they follow these rules when crossing the street:
- STOP at a curb or the edge of the road, and only at a corner or intersection.
- LOOK left-right-left for moving cars.
- WALK, don’t run, when road is clear or all cars have come to a stop.
- STAY ALERT and keep looking for cars as you cross.
- Remind them to use their eyes and ears at all times. Child pedestrians can be at risk not only when crossing the street, but whenever they are near a street. Remind them that cars that appear to be parked may not always be parked, and to exercise caution when walking near driveways and parked cars.
- Teach them to obey all traffic markers. In addition to learning to cross at a WALK signal, children should learn to check for traffic, even if there is a green light or WALK signal.
[Children ages 10 and up]
- Choose their route to school. Walk to school together to find the most direct, safest route to school. When walking alone, they should follow that route and never use shortcuts.
- Make sure they use the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk along their route, then they should keep to the left and walk facing oncoming traffic so they can see cars coming.
- Make sure they are visible. Many jackets and backpacks come with reflective materials built-in. You can also add reflective tape to any article of clothing, which is available at hardware or fabric stores.