America has a total of over 20 million miles of paved roads, including alleys, streets, avenues, highways, and freeways. All of these are built for the convenience of motor vehicles, and designed for their exclusive use. Pedestrians are not really part of the equation when it comes to a busy road. And that explains the tragic statistics that are racked up each year as Americans ignore the basic rules of traffic and pedestrian safety. This is especially true when it comes to children.
Research shows that children have less cognitive skills in self-preservation than adults, and are unable to adequately understand and avoid unsafe situations when it comes to street traffic. As pedestrians, children under the age of 15 should always have a guide and/or monitor with them when interacting with a road environment.
Writer Arnold Emmett writes in Roadway Magazine that “Every year over one-hundred thousand children are injured in pedestrian accidents that involve not paying attention or foolhardiness. In 2015 alone there were over 200 child pedestrian deaths.The rush and noise of traffic should serve as an adequate warning to children to avoid dangerous crossings and negligent behavior, but the facts show otherwise. It is up to parents to see that their children know and understand the peril that exists along the roadways of America. Educators are also responsible for our children to learn these rules and regulations while in grade school, or even younger, but what with budget cuts and other challenges, it’s not always possible to have a comprehensive safety training program made available in every public school anymore. While it’s important that our children get out and walk and bike rather than be driven everywhere, it’s even more crucial that they be taught the basic safety protocols necessary for them to avoid injury, and even death, while interacting with road traffic.”
Mothers, and fathers, should make sure that their children understand the basics of road safety by the time they are able to go out the door to visit and play with others in their neighborhood. Even if you live in a cul-de-sac and have no streaming traffic nearby, the possibility of a pedestrian accident is still high anytime children are around automobiles and other motor vehicles. For the purposes of this article, that includes motorcycles and even riding lawnmowers!
The best way to teach and train young ones in pedestrian safety is by modeling and repetition. This means, quite simply, that you as the parent must take your child out and physically show them how to ‘look both ways’ before crossing a street. Once they have seen you do it, they must be encouraged to repeat the action just as you did it. Not just once or twice, but dozens of times. Make sure you reward your children for successfully doing this small thing with at least a smile and a hearty, sincere compliment. Under normal circumstances this kind of training can all take place in the first six years of their life. Just remember, it’s all about model and repeat, then reward. Your goal is to make basic safety rules and patterns a habit; something your child does not even have to think about before doing.
Here are the basic road safety rules for children:
Know the traffic lights and signals
Help your kids understand the importance of knowing and obeying stop signs, traffic lights, and other road signs from the get-go. Check them early on for color blindness. There are many commercial flashcards available to make this into a learning game.
STOP is the first commandment
Whatever order you choose to teach your children in, the very first thing they should learn from you is to stop before crossing any street or alleyway — even if the light is green and/or there is absolutely no traffic in sight. Stop and look is the basic building block of all pedestrian safety. Neglect of this simple rule causes 88 percent of all pedestrian accidents.
Parking lots are not automatically safe
Consider all parking lots to be traffic lanes, and teach your children accordingly. Children under six should always hold hands with an adult in a parking lot.
Especially at night. For motors running and other vehicle noises. Drivers don’t always remember to put on their headlights.
Staying Safe Inside A Moving Vehicle
In a moving car, you can make sure that your kid is safe with the help of a car seat or seat belts. To see that they are safe in a moving vehicle without you, make sure they learn and follow these simple rules:
- Never stand inside a moving vehicle, especially a school bus or van.
- Students should not move around inside a moving school bus.
- Stay seated and hold on to the hard rail inside the bus for support, until the vehicle comes to a stop. Follow these rules on the importance of wearing a seatbelt.
- Do not put any part of the body outside the window of a moving vehicle.
Use the sidewalk
Walking in the street may seem more fun, but it’s also much more dangerous.
When riding in a schoolbus or any vehicle, insist that your children keep their hands and head inside at all times. Learning ‘the hard way’ about this, from a telephone pole, is very painful — and possibly fatal.
Don’t cross at curves
Bends in the road are not a good place to cross, since oncoming vehicles can’t see you until the very last moment — and vice versa.
Helmets. Reflective tape on fenders. Make sure the brakes are working. Enroll your kids in a bicycle safety class, which most police departments across the United States hold on an annual basis.
Exit on the curb side
Exiting on the street side just invites a careless driver to treat you like a bowling pin.
Dress to be seen
Black may be fashionable, but make sure your children are wearing a variety of lighter colors, especially at night. If nothing else, a white cap can be seen clearly when the rest of them is swathed in cool black.