Young Children and the road
It’s every parent’s nightmare – a child getting away from you
and running in front of a car.
In 2001, 36 children (0 – 16 years of age) were killed as
pedestrians on Australian roads. Although the group of 11 – 16 year olds is the
group most at risk, younger children also need to be protected.
A little girl I know was recently lost this way, and it is
too horrible to risk it happening again to another child. Children will always
be children, but there are ways we can minimise such risks to them.
Why do Children Need Adult
Supervision at Roads?
Children are small and not always visible to drivers,
especially in busy traffic or bad conditions. They don’t understand that cars
may not see them just because they can see the car.
Until they are at least eight, children have trouble judging
details such as a car’s speed, how far away a car really is and which direction
a sound is coming from. They also register their observations differently to
adults and don’t fully understand what safety is.
Youngsters also have short attention spans and are easily
distracted. They focus on what they deem to be important and can act
unpredictably, even in repeat situations.
It is also important to remember that children may know the
theories and be able to recite the rules long before they can actually carry
them out reliably. There is no magic point at which children become ‘safe’ from
road dangers; but those under eight should never be crossing roads alone.
What can adults do?
The single most important act parents and carers can do in
terms of child safety is set a perfect example. Make sure you always stop and
look, use crossings whenever possible, walk, choose safe places, and so on.
Children will copy what they see you regularly do, so make it something worth
Physical restraint is the obvious adult behaviour. When
walking alongside roads, no matter how quiet the road appears to be, either hold
the child, have the child hold you, keep tension on the reins and/or strap
toddlers into the stroller.
When walking with children, keep them on the inside of the
path – that is, stay between them and the road. If there is no path, walk on the
right hand verge.
Ensure that children stay close to you – running ahead means
you have no control when cars reverse out of driveways and the like.
Always put children in and out of cars on the side away from
any traffic. If you have more than one child with you, set the rule that
children must be touching the car at all times. Thus, the children not actually
in the car will be close and not running into danger.
What do I teach my preschool
It is important to teach children road safety as soon as
possible. Obviously, it will take time before all rules are learned and
supervision can be eased, but starting early offers the best protection.
Hopefully, your preschooler knows where the kerb is and to
never step over it without an adult’s assistance. Repeat “the road is for
traffic and the pavement is for people.” It seems obvious, but a child can’t
avoid roads and cars unless they know what a road is.
Train children to always stop at the kerb. This could
save a life when the child runs off from a park or house out of adult reach.
The use of “Stop” and “go” will give you control over the
child’s behaviour such that you can react instantly to circumstances.
Introducing the words and concept of “Stop, Look, Listen, Think” begins the
formal road safety process.
Talking to children at every opportunity is also important.
Tell them why you are following the steps of the safety routine. For instance,
“Stop here. We must check it is safe first,” “Can you hear any cars coming?” or
“I can’t see any cars moving here; do you think it is safe?”
Explain the road rules and signs as you apply them,
including the use of indicators, round-abouts and one-way streets. As this
information sinks in, the children will have more skills for anticipating what
cars will do. Constant mentions of safety and repetition of the details will
make the ideas easier for the child to remember.
Children will respond better to the road rules if they have
an understanding of why the rules are in place.
Give children the chance to practise safety rules. Let them
chose a safe place to cross or confirm that no cars are coming – praise correct
choices and explain the problem with any unsafe choices they make. Doing is a
more effective teacher than listening.
Important Rules for Children
For preschoolers, the main rule should be “Never step onto a
road without an adult.” The other rules still need to be told to preschoolers to
ready them for later stages.
IF IT IS
NOT SAFE, DO NOT CROSS THE ROAD
paths and don’t wonder onto the road
Walk on the
inside of the path, not alongside the road
If there is
no path, walk on the right side of the road. Make sure it is in single file
around bends, in the dark or during heavy traffic.
Be seen –
use bright colours in the day and reflective or white clothing after dark.
be careful crossing cyclist lanes as well – bikes are fast but quiet.
Look for a
safe place to cross – not from between parked cars.
instructions (eg pedestrian lights) regardless of what other people may do.
traffic islands to break the road into two crossings.
– keep looking and listening even when you are crossing the road.
Tash Hughes is a
Mum of two in Melbourne. She is also a writer and owner of
www.wordconstructions.com. Tash is available to write articles and profiles
for any business, as well as doing other business documentation projects. This
article may be reproduced as long as this information is attached and the
article is not changed in any way.