Teaching Your Child About Pedestrian Safety
Many adults have a tendency to think of children as being just like adults, only smaller. But this way of thinking can be dangerous when it comes to educating children about proper pedestrian safety. Children and adults have significant physical and cognitive differences that make it impossible for children to react to traffic in the exact same way an adult would. Children have a field of vision ⅓ narrower than adults, have a harder time accurately judging the speed and distance of oncoming traffic, and have a limited ability to accurately assess how dangerous a situation is. Children are also more likely to think that just because they can see an oncoming car, the driver can see them. But with proper safety education, children will be able to keep themselves safe and avoid becoming the victim of a pedestrian accident.
If you’re trying to teach your child about pedestrian safety, one of the most important things you can do is set a good example yourself. Children model their behavior based on what they see adults and older children doing, regardless of whether the behavior is good or bad. So if your child sees you crossing a street outside of a crosswalk, they’re going to assume it’s OK to do it, too, because your child sees you as an authority figure.
First and foremost, children need to learn where and when it is appropriate to walk. Areas with sidewalks are always best, but in some areas, there may be no other choice but to walk along roads without sidewalks. If walking along a road without sidewalks is unavoidable, teach children to walk on the shoulder of the road, as far away from cars as possible, facing oncoming traffic. When trying to teach children about pedestrian safety, start with routes you know to be safe and have the fewest number of street crossings possible. As you’re walking together, explain to your child why you’ve chosen this walking route.
Until the age of 10, children often have a hard time judging the speed and distance of oncoming traffic, so children should always cross streets with an adult until they are 10 years old. Try to avoid crossing busy roads as often as possible and always cross at marked crosswalks. Teach your child to completely stop at the curb and look in all directions (including in front of and behind you) to make sure traffic is clear and it is safe to cross. If an intersection has “walk/don’t walk” signals, teach them that it’s OK to keep walking if the signal begins flashing “don’t walk” while they’re still in the road. Also make sure kids learn to keep an eye out for cars that may be pulling out of driveways.
Children need to learn to be extra cautious when approaching cars parked on the street. More than half of all pedestrian injuries that happen to children under the age of 9 occur when children dart into traffic mid-block, often from in between parked cars. Not only might children not be able to see oncoming cars if they’re in between parked cars, oncoming drivers might not be able to see children until it’s too late. Since children are easily distracted and are inclined to act impulsively, these types of accidents tend to occur during times when children are playing outside and are doing something like chasing a ball that has bounced into the street.