As parents, we don’t think about the importance of road safety for children until our little ones start to walk and we take them out for their first little stroll to a neighbours house or the local shop. Suddenly, we realise how protected they have been in their pram or buggy and that the roads are actually a very dangerous thing for them to be near.
According to the Child Accident Prevention Trust, road accidents make up around one in fourteen of all deaths of children aged 5 to 14. In 2008, 131 children and young people under 16 died on the UK’s roads. They also cause serious injuries, with almost 2,800 under 16s seriously injured in the same year.
However, these numbers are starting to fall, as a result of road safety being taught more in our schools and parents becoming more aware of the dangers too.
It has been suggested by many, that children are around 11 years old before they are aware of the road and should be left to cross roads on their own. Children should never be left before the age of 9 years as they lack the hearing, peripheral vision and judgement capabilities necessary for them to safely deal with roads on their own.
However, it is still very important to teach toddlers from an early age about road safety to ensure we keep them as safe as we can do, so here is a few tips to help you on your way:
- Never let a child cross the road on their own.
- Use a harness. Some people disagree with the use of a harness saying it is too restrictive, makes them feel like they are leading a dog or doesn’t allow the child to learn. I personally think they are great. As we’ve seen children, especially toddlers, do not have the brain capacity to learn and implement road safety techniques, so it is our job to protect them. A harness can be a great way of doing this.
- Make sure you hold your child’s hand whenever you actually cross the road.
- Use the word ‘STOP’ with authority. You need to drum it into your child that when you are out and about if you shot ‘stop’ then they must ‘stop’ immediately. This can stop them stepping out onto a busy road. You can even practice this at the end of your street/road when it is quiet and there is no traffic around.
- Teach children the difference between a pavement and the road, keep telling them, ’people stay on pavements, roads are for cars only’ as this will remind them where they should be.
- Make sure they learn to walk on the inside of the pavement, furthest away from the road.
- Teach your child to only cross the road at designated crossings, such as zebra crossings and traffics lights. When you are out and about together, reinforce this by using these with them. NEVER just quickly run across the road, as you will teach your child that it is OK to do this
- Implement a sticker chart with walking nicely as one of the behaviours you are to focus on; this can enforce the importance of road safety when you are out and about.
Once your child starts school they will begin to learn about the Green Cross Code, which we all remember as Stop, Look and Listen. This teaches them to always stop when they need to cross a road, to then assess if any cars are coming by looking around them and then to listen. If they can see the road is clear and they can’t hear any vehicles, only then is it safe to cross.
Steven Biddulph talks about this in some depth in his book; “Raising Boys”. He suggests boys especially should not be allowed to cross a road before the age of 11 years. He states;
“Car accidents kill boys at three times the rate of girls”
So yes, it’s even more important to tackle road safety with little boys. This is due to differences in brain development in boys and girls. It takes a while for our brains to grow and develop and ‘wanting’ something or being ‘excited’ can make a child stop thinking about road safety, e.g. if their ball runs out on the road, road safety may just go out of the window and they’ll run out for it anyway! So even for many years after our children are toddlers we need to keep on re-enforcing the importance of road safety to them.
Also, if you are a driver you need to remember your own responsibilities and NEVER speed. Speed is a crucial factor in the outcome of a road traffic accident. If a child is hit at 30mph there is an 80% chance they will survive. If they are hit by over 30mph there is an 80% chance they won’t. It really is 30 for a reason.
I hope these little tips help and remind us how important it is to keep our children safe in the roads.
As always, we’d love to hear your top tips for road safety for children and about any experiences you wish to share.
This is another guest post from Maria Albertsen as part of our series of Thursday Thoughts for Parenting Behavioural Challenges. We hope it gives you out.
Image above courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net