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6 Pedestrian Road Safety Tips to Teach Kids

April 20, 2020

6 Pedestrian Road Safety Tips to Teach Kids

Establish the habit of walking with your children at a young age can help promote a healthy, active lifestyle that they can carry on to their adulthood.

However, children do not have the skills to assess and choose safe routes and to judge when and where to cross the street. It’s your job to guide them. Here are a few child pedestrian safety education pointers to ensure that your child walks the streets safely.

Pedestrian Road Safety Statistics

Young children are at high-risk of pedestrian-related injuries

How safe are our streets for our children? According to an analysis of national pedestrian data from 1995 to 2010 by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, children of and below 14 years old are among the groups that are susceptible to injury and death caused by pedestrian crashes.

Among children, those of 5 to 14 years have the highest risk of pedestrian-related injury and death.

An average of 30 child pedestrians younger than 14 years die per year, and an average of 2,412 are injured.

Children under 16 years old make up 6% of critically injured pedestrians, and 20% of them ran out on the road.

According to 2011 and 2012 reports by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators and the Public Health Agency of Canada, pedestrian crashes make up about 12% of injury-related fatalities of children below 14 years old.

Should I Be Worried?

The statistics may be daunting, but according to “Walking Safely: A Report to the Nation (August 2012)” by Safe Kids Worldwide, our streets have been getting relatively safer over the past 15 years. Safe Kids Worldwide suggests that pedestrian-related injuries and fatalities in kids and teenagers are caused by distraction, especially because of the use of devices like mobile phones while walking.

So even if our streets are relatively safer, it still pays to be cautious and teach our children pedestrian safety pointers and regulations.

How Old Should My Kid Be to Walk the Street?

Experts have not agreed to set a “magic age” when children can be allowed to walk alone. Gavin De Becker, author of “Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane),” explains that this depends on your child’s cognitive skills and ability to follow instructions.

De Becker advises using the Test of Twelve to determine if your child has the skills needed to walk alone. This test was specially designed to assess whether a child is safe to be left at home by themselves, but it may also be used for this purpose, as it’s a good indicator of your child’s independence level.

Pedestrian Safety Law and Regulations

Here is a brief overview of the pedestrian safety law and regulations from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation that will keep your child safe while they walk the streets:

Motorists should stop and yield at school crossings

  • Motorists, including cyclists, have to stop and yield at pedestrian crossovers, school crossings, and other places where a crossing guard is present. Motorists can proceed only after all the pedestrians and crossing guards have made it to the other side of the street.
  • You can identify a school crossing by the presence of a crossing guard and a school crossing sign.

A pedestrian push button

  • You can identify a pedestrian crossover by the presence of crossing signs, crossing road marks (such as painted stripes), and crossing lights. Some pedestrian crossovers have traffic lights with pedestrian push buttons that allow pedestrians to signal when they want to cross. However, pushing the pedestrian push button does not mean that you can cross the street immediately. You still have to wait for the crossing light to turn green.
  • A different law applies to pedestrian crosswalks located in intersections that have stop signs or traffic signals without a school crossing guard. In these areas, the traffic signals or lights must be strictly followed.

Here are the penalties for motorists who break these pedestrian safety laws in Ontario according to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation website: fines can cost from $1,000 to $4,000. Penalties may include a jail sentence for up to 6 months and suspension of driver’s license for up to 2 years.

Pedestrian Road Safety Tips for Kids

Teach by example, and show your kids how to be independent, secure, and responsible pedestrians. The following guidelines are by a senior policy analyst in injury prevention at the Ministry of Health.

Discuss these pedestrian road safety practices with your kid. Let them raise questions, and try to answer as clearly as you can.

  1. Find accessible, walkable, and well-lit routes to walk to your destination.
  2. A green go signal for pedestrians doesn’t always mean that you’re safe to cross the street. Make sure that all vehicles have stopped before you proceed walking.
  3. Observe how fast the oncoming vehicles are going.
  4. Check each traffic lane if they’ve stopped for you to cross.
  5. Give your full attention to walking. Minimize distractions, especially if you have your mobile phone or any device with you.
  6. Make sure that drivers can see you.

Put these pedestrian road safety practices to use by going on walks with your children, and help them familiarize with your usual routes in your neighbourhood.

For 4 to 6 Years

Children from 4 to 6 years should always be watched over while walking

Children from 4 to 6 years should always be watched over while walking. As much as possible, teach these road safety practices in the simplest terms you can think of to eliminate confusion. Hold their hand as you walk to stop them from wandering or running off.

Point out safe places to cross the street and explain to them why they must cross there. If you have a nearby pedestrian crossing with a pedestrian push button, show them how it works and let them try it.

There are some useful items that you can use to make yourself easily visible to drivers, such as light-coloured clothes or clothes with reflective material and flashlights (appropriate only at night). Show your child how to use these properly.

For 7 to 9 Years

Although children of these ages will understand complex concepts better, they still need to be supervised while walking. Highlight the importance of checking traffic volume when choosing a place to cross the street.

At these ages, you can start enforcing the 3 most important pedestrian road safety practices: stop, listen, and look. Teach them to take note of how fast oncoming vehicles are going, and remind them to make themselves visible to drivers before crossing the street.

For 10 Years and Above

Map out simple, safe walking routes with light traffic

Children of these ages should have sufficient attention, reasoning, and decision-making skills to observe proper road safety practices. These skills can be put to use through a combination of independent and supervised walking. Help them get ready to walk by themselves by mapping out simple, safe routes with light traffic.

Before you let them try the route on their own, walk with them until they become familiar with it. As you go along, keep reminding them which locations are good places to cross.

Again, remind them to make themselves visible to drivers. You can go shopping and let them pick out which flashlight or which clothes to wear for pedestrian visibility. They will be encouraged to use these helpful items because they were part of the decision-making process.

How to Ensure Your Child’s Safety During a Pedestrian Accident

Even if you’ve successfully trained your child to be an independent, secure, and responsible pedestrian, a careless or reckless driver may still make them vulnerable to a car accident. Arm yourself with sufficient pedestrian safety information, learn more about pedestrian road safety in Toronto, and find out what to do immediately after a car accident.

If you or your child have acquired an injury from a pedestrian accident, reach out to our team of trusted and reliable lawyers at Michelle Linka Law. Call us at 416-477-7288 for a free consultation.

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