Kids Dart - Parent tips
Just as we teach children to read, it is equally important we also teach children the skills needed to become a safe pedestrian. Even with preschool children, parents can model safe pedestrian skills and begin teaching these skills as they walk through their neighborhood. You can make games out of identifying road signs and different sounds.
While there is some controversy about the age at which children should cross the street by themselves, many experts agree that children younger than 10 years of age do not have the skills necessary to safely cross a street without a responsible adult or older child present. Many parents overestimate the ability of their children to navigate safely in traffic. It may take children with physical or developmental delays even longer to acquire pedestrian skills. On certain roads in your community, children may even need to be older before they can cross safely.
Before letting your child walk to school alone, it is important you walk the route together several times so you can both evaluate the safety of the route as well as your child's pedestrian skills. You should also be alert to personal safety concerns like crime and potentially aggressive dogs.
Here are a few skills parents can practice with their children on their walks to prepare them to become safe pedestrians.
- Look left, right, left again and behind you before crossing the street. Remind children that motorists may be turning right (hence the reason to look behind them). Remind the child that it is important to keep looking and listening as they cross the street.
- Listen before crossing the street. If they hear sirens, remind the child to stay on the sidewalk until they know if the ambulance, fire truck or police car is coming in their direction.
- Blind Spots: Remind children that everyone can't see them. Help them understand the concept of blind spots on vehicles. It is also important children know that adults can become distracted and not always see children. Children should make eye contact with drivers and wave to them as they cross an intersection. This makes it easier to see the child. (In many countries, both children and adults do this!)
- Safe Crossing Areas: Teach your child to use them. Work with your child on locations to safely cross the street and explain why they are safe. It is not enough to tell a child that a particular area is dangerous to cross, rather, explain to a child why it is dangerous. Such areas include roadways with steep curves and hills (as they decrease both the child's and driver's ability to see).
- Encourage your child to use sidewalks: A safe place to walk. When walking with your child, use the sidewalks when they are available. Even though children want to socialize, it is not appropriate to walk on the road in groups. If sidewalks are not present, pedestrians should walk facing traffic, single file, as far to the left of the road as possible.
- Use crosswalks. Whenever possible, cross the street at crosswalks, even though it may involve walking some extra steps. Walking out into the street between parked cars should be discouraged as it is extremely dangerous. Parked cars pose two dangers to pedestrians: A driver may be in a parked car that a child is unable to see, and the driver may be unable to see the child who will then be hit as the driver pulls out of the parking space. The second danger comes from motorists on the street - children will not see approaching traffic, and the child is hidden from the motorist's vision until it is too late.