Katie Hilton – iCandy Expert Midwife & Health Visitor
This week marks Road Safety Week, the UK’s biggest road safety event. The aim of this week is to encourage action on road safety and raise awareness about the part we can all play in preventing tragedies and making roads safer. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss road safety with your children, particularly how to cross the road safely.
As parents, we often don’t think about the importance of road safety for our children until they start to walk. Suddenly, we realise how protected they have been in their pushchair, and that actually roads are close to them and pose a very serious and dangerous threat. Research from the Child Accident Prevention Trust, highlights that road accidents account for around one in fourteen of all deaths of children aged 5 to 12, and and are responsible for almost 2,800 under 16’s seriously injured. However, these numbers are starting to fall, this is directly as result of road safety being taught to children by their parents and in schools.
It is thought children are roughly 11 years old before they are fully aware of the road and should not be left to cross roads on their own. Children should also never be left alone near a road before 9 years of age as they lack the hearing, peripheral vision and judgement necessary to safely cross a road on their own. However, it is still very important to teach children from toddlerhood onwards about road safety to ensure we keep them as safe as possible, so here are a few tips to help you on your way.
- Never let a child cross the road on their own.
- Use a harness/reins, some people disagree with the use of child reins stating it is restrictive and make them feel like they are leading a dog or doesn’t allow the child to learn about independence. Personally, I feel they are great as they do allow a degree of independence but also enable your child to be safe. Children, especially toddlers do not have the capacity to learn and implement road safety techniques, which makes it our job as parents to protect them. A harness/reins is a great way of doing this.
- Be sure to hold your child’s hand whenever crossing a road.
- Use the word STOP with authority, it’s important to drum it into your child that when you are out & about that STOP means stop immediately. This action can prevent them from stepping out onto a busy road.
- Teach your child the difference between the pavement and the road, tell them that people stay on pavements and roads are for cars.
- Ensure your child learns to walk on the inside of the pavement, furthest away from the road.
- Teach your child the importance of the use of designated crossings, such as zebra crossings and traffic lights. Reinforce this when you are out with your child by using these crossing methods, never just quickly run across the road as this will teach your child it is okay to do this.
- Implement a sticker chart for walking nicely, this will reinforce good behaviour when out walking with your child.
- When your child starts school they will start to learn about the Green Cross Code, which most parents will remember as Stop, Look and Listen. This teaches your child to always stop when they need to cross a road, to then assess if any cars are coming by looking around them and to listen. If they can see the road is clear and they can’t hear any vehicles, only then is it safe to cross.