Pedestrian safety for children

 
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As your child settles into the school year, one item that might be missing from their checklist is a discussion about getting to school safely.

According to Parachute, the national organization dedicated to preventing injuries, more than 30 child pedestrians are killed and 2,400 are seriously injured on Canada's roads every year.

Pedestrian safety facts

  • Children aged 10 to 14 are the most likely age group to suffer pedestrian-related injuries. Even more startling, children aged five to 14 years are most likely to be killed by a vehicle.
  • Child pedestrians are most often hurt in September and October, followed by May and June.
  • Most child pedestrians are hit by a vehicle in towns and cities with heavy traffic, many parked cars and few play spaces.
  • An accident on a rural road is more likely to be fatal because of faster vehicle speeds.

These numbers serve as a reminder about the power of talking about prevention with your child. Teens and adults, especially drivers, also play a big role in street safety.

School road safety tips

The Parachute Walk This Way program has a number of tips that can help make trips to and from school, or anywhere else, safe.

Teach your child

Long before a child will be allowed to roam the streets alone, parents should teach them some basic safety tips. These include walking only on the sidewalk, holding hands and never running into the road, even for a favourite toy.

As your child gets older, you can use events that you see together as opportunities to teach more about pedestrian safety. For example, you might use situations such as changing weather conditions, someone jaywalking or picking the best route to get from one place to another.

Another key point is to be a role model by walking with your child and demonstrating safe pedestrian practices.

Think, look and listen

Teach your child to stop at the curb, look left, right and left again and listen for oncoming traffic. Your child should consider alleys and driveways as "mini-roads" and treat them with the same level of caution.

Children should not be allowed to wear ear buds or talk on the phone while walking down the street. Talking on the phone, texting and listening to music can all be distracting. Both adults and children need to pay attention to what is going on around them.

Also, note that our alertness fades throughout the day. Most incidents happen between 3pm and 6pm, when drivers are coming from work and children may be walking from school.

Children should know that their hearing is very important for safety. You can play games to encourage your child to listen for traffic. For example, when you hear a vehicle behind you coming down the street, try to guess what it is with your child.

Wait to let your child walk alone

According to Parachute, children need to develop three important skills before they can walk alone. They need to be able to:

  • choose and use a safe crossing route
  • accurately assess a vehicle's speed
  • judge safe gaps in traffic.

Many children do not develop these skills until they are aged nine to 11. Until you are confident that your child can be a safe pedestrian, make sure they are supervised.


Key points

  • Before allowing your child to walk outside without you, teach them about walking only on the sidewalk, holding hands and never running into the road, even for a favourite toy.
  • With older children, use situations such as changing weather or planning a route to teach more about pedestrian safety.
  • Remind your child to pay attention to other road users and not text or listen to loud music while walking.
  • Make sure your child can choose and use a safe crossing route, acccurately estimate a vehicle's speed and judge safe gaps in traffic before allowing them to walk alone.

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Elly Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE
11/4/2013


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