Young Children and the Road
by Tash Hughes of
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.
do Children Need Adult Supervision at Roads?
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
children stay close to you – running ahead means you
have no control when cars reverse out of driveways and
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.
do I teach my preschool child?
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.
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.
to always stop at the kerb. This could save a
life when the child runs off from a park or house out of
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
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?”
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.
respond better to the road rules if they have an
understanding of why the rules are in place.
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.
Rules for Children
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
Stay on paths and don’t wonder onto
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.
Remember to be careful crossing
cyclist lanes as well – bikes are fast but quiet.
Look for a safe place to cross –
not from between parked cars.
Follow instructions (eg pedestrian
lights) regardless of what other people may do.
Consider traffic islands to break
the road into two crossings.
Stay alert – keep looking and
listening even when you are crossing the road.
Tash Hughes is
the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses
in preparing all written documentation and web site
content. Tash also writes parenting and business articles for
inclusion in newsletter and web sites.