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Parents & Educators

Teaching kids about pedestrian safety

With a quick glance and a little mental arithmetic, an adult can decide, almost instantaneously, whether it’s safe to cross a street. A child, however, is not equipped to make such a split-second decision.

Young children are naturally curious and impulsive, and while these may be positive characteristics in the proper environment, they can prove deadly in the street. Darting out into the street to retrieve a rolling ball or to find a friend are common behaviours among young children. They must be taught to stop whenever they reach a road and understand that cars can injure or kill.

It will take years of practice and guidance as well as further bodily development before a young child can be responsible in any traffic situation. However, most children are ready to start practicing safe pedestrian behaviour under the guidance of a parent or a responsible adult by the time they are four or five-years old.

How to teach effectively

There are three key concepts to remember when teaching children about traffic safety. These are role modelling, repetition, and practice. 

Role modelling is critical because children often imitate adult behaviour. A strong advocate of “practice what you preach,” stresses that parents consistently practice safe pedestrian behaviours as an example to their children.

When teaching children about traffic safety make sure they understand what is being taught. Ask questions: Do you see anything coming? Is it a car or truck? What does that car’s signal indicate? Is it safe to cross or shall we wait? The child’s answers will clearly indicate if he or she comprehends what is being said.

Teach defensive walking

Children should also be taught to walk defensively. Explain to them that there are some drivers who for one reason or another do not follow the safety rules. A driver may not, for instance, use a signal to indicate a turn or may not yield to pedestrians. As a precaution against careless drivers, parents should stress to children to make sure they are seen by all drivers at an intersection before crossing.

Below are listed the concepts that parents and other responsible adults can teach young children.

  • Meaning of stop and yield signs.
  • Meaning of car signals.
  • How to stop, look all ways before crossing at a four-way intersection.
  • Meaning of “walk” and “don’t run” signals at intersection.
  • How to cross an intersection with a traffic light.
  • That pedestrians leave the sidewalk only when all cars have stopped.
  • Safe places to play away from home and how to get there.
  • Obey the crossing guard.