Children as young as preschool age should learn how to cross the street safely, as well as practice becoming aware, traffic-smart pedestrians. The Association for Psychological Science (APS) reports that getting struck by a car is the third leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 9. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 1 in 4 traffic deaths among children aged 14 and under are pedestrian deaths.
According to Peoria pedestrian accident attorney, Zachary Mushkatel, there are many factors that lead to these tragic numbers, such as drivers not seeing children and children not understanding the rate of speed a car is traveling, but even children of a young age can be taught to be safe pedestrians when crossing the street.
Start teaching pedestrian safety early
Although the majority of children start walking independently at a very young age, it doesn’t mean that they understand the concept of pedestrian safety. However, parents and caregivers can help even the youngest of children to begin to understand how to be a pedestrian by being role models and using crosswalks themselves. For example, when carrying or pushing your toddler in a stroller across an intersection, you may consider saying, “Don’t forget to look both ways!” “Look for the WALK sign!” “Make sure there are no cars coming!” With repetitive instruction, exaggerated head movements of looking side to side, and being consistent every time you cross a street, your child may pick up on key elements of pedestrian safety before he or she is able to walk with you in the crosswalk.
How to be the safest pedestrian
In a perfect and safe world there would be sidewalks in every neighborhood, clearly marked and easy to access crosswalks, a crossing guard at every corner, and drivers who were always on the lookout for pedestrians. Unfortunately, pedestrians of all ages struggle to get across busy intersections before the light changes and some neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks, leaving pedestrians to walk precariously in the street. When teaching your child how to be a safe pedestrian, it’s a good idea to talk about all scenarios (such as what to do if there’s no sidewalk):
Always use a crosswalk: Even if it would be shorter and easier to cross the street in the middle of the block, always use a crosswalk whenever possible. Teach your child that a crosswalk is designed to “alert” drivers to drive slower and pay attention to people crossing the street. Make sure your child knows that he or she should not attempt to cross in the crosswalk until they have looked both ways and cars have stopped.
Never try to outrun a car: Your child may think that he or she is a fast runner, but it’s vital that he or she knows to never attempt to outrun a car that is approaching a crosswalk. Explain that even cars that look like they are moving slow, move much faster than humans.
Be seen: Remind your child that even though crosswalks are designed to alert drivers that pedestrians may be crossing, never assume that a driver will see you. The best time to cross is with the help of a crossing guard, another adult, or when there are no cars nearby.
While some children exhibit the ability to cross the street safely on their own at an early age, don’t allow your child to cross the street until he or she can verbally explain to you the process of crossing the street and what to do if a cyclist or motorist is heading towards a crosswalk.
About the author
Amy Patterson is a regular contributor to Very Best For Kids, writing mainly on child safety topics. From North Carolina, you will usually find her catching up on the latest news with locals or on the beach with her family. Besides safety, Amy also writes about health, fitness, wellness, and family.