Children crossing: The danger of kids walking, biking to school
Teaching your child pedestrian safety
For many children, walking or biking is a convenient and healthy way to get to school. However, it can be potentially unsafe and even deadly when not done correctly.
Last year, the Cook Children's Trauma team saw 22 children, either biking or walking, who were hit by cars from August through the month of October. Eight children were hit by cars in September and 10 in October.
But with school already started, so are the dangers of kids and cars.
Already, a teen was hit in front of a high school in Crowley. The injuries seem to be minor, but it places an emphasis on how vulnerable children are near or even in front of schools.
More children are hit by cars during September than any other month of the year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
“Children do not have the cognitive skills to be crossing streets safely alone until at least age 10,” said Sharon Evans, Trauma/Injury Prevention outreach coordinator at Cook Children’s. “They haven’t yet developed the depth perception or the ability to maturely judge the speed of an object.”
Kids age 10 and younger should not walk or ride bicycles, scooters or skateboards alone to school because they:
- Are easily distracted by friends and toys.
- Can’t determine the direction of sounds. Some children may be listening for sounds and may not realize that some newer model electric/hybrid may not make much of a sound at all.
- Can’t judge the speed or distance of a moving vehicle.
- Don’t understand how long it takes a vehicle to stop.
- Have too narrow a field of vision.
Even when kids reach age 10, it’s still best for parents to accompany them to school whenever possible.
Teaching Your Child Pedestrian Safety
“When I visit children who have suffered pedestrian injuries, the most common thing they tell me is that they thought the driver saw them,” explained Evans. “It’s important to teach your children that just because they see a driver, it doesn’t mean the driver sees them. They need to make eye contact with the driver and wait for the driver to stop and signal to them before attempting to cross the street.”
While teaching your children to ride their bikes or walk to school, don’t forget to tell them to cross only at crosswalks; look left, right and then left again; and to watch for cars that are turning or backing up. The best way to teach your child pedestrian and bike safety is to be a good role model yourself. It’s also a good idea to encourage your children to wear bright clothing and reflectors when they’re walking before dawn or after dusk.
"It’s important for parents to remember they are the most important models of proper pedestrian behavior for children," said Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. "Parents should also make sure they follow the rules when they are driving in school zones, including going the speed limit at all times through the zone and not texting or talking on the phone."
Safe Kids recommend teaching your kids these safe behaviors:
- Look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Cross when the street is clear, and keep looking both ways while crossing. Walk, don’t run.
- Understand and obey traffic signals and signs.
- Walk facing traffic, on sidewalks or paths, so that you can see oncoming cars. If there are no sidewalks, walk as far to the left as possible.
Practice safe behaviors:
- Don’t allow a child under age 10 to cross streets alone as he may not be able to fully appreciate the speed of cars on the road.
- Require children to carry a flashlight at night, dawn and dusk. Add retro-reflective materials to children’s clothing so that a child can be seen by motorists, even in the dark.
- Don’t let kids play in driveways, unfenced yards, streets or parking lots. Drivers may not see or anticipate children playing.
Interactive Infographic: How to not get hit by a car - Safe Kids Worldwide
With an average of 44 kids getting hit while walking every day in the U.S., it’s time for action. HOW TO NOT GET HIT BY A CAR is a fun new interactive infographic that guides walkers through seven common ways kids get hit by cars, and seven ways to avoid it. Parents and kids alike give it great reviews; not only do they think it’s fun to experience the action, they can usually relate to it. Try it out and see if you make any of the common mistakes when you cross the street.
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Whether it is the correct use of a child passenger seat, drowning prevention education in the schools, or providing a better awareness of poison hazards to new moms, we are working to create safe homes and communities for children.