At the start of a new school year, there is always a lot of information given to children in order to prepare them for their new routine. Much of the focus is on who their teachers are, what friends are in their class, and making sure they know how they are getting to and from school. One of the main efforts of the Madison Police Department during this transitional time is to ensure that the children of the community know how to properly and safely cross the street. Whether it's walking a few blocks home or just across the street after the bus drops them off, it is important that our children know what it means to be a pedestrian and how to keep themselves safe.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children 10 years of age or younger should always be accompanied by an adult while out walking. While being supervised, the child should be reminded of the basics of pedestrian safety, including having them stop and look left-right-left and teaching them to continue looking left and right as they cross the street. Another important lesson is that when they are looking left-right-left, they are looking for either no traffic or, if there is traffic, for the cars to come to a stop before beginning to cross. These steps will help ensure that children are getting across the street safely.
Many accidents that occur between young pedestrians and motorists are caused when children walk into the street unaware that they were previously hidden from view, usually by a stationary vehicle. Another common cause of these accidents is children darting into the street without taking the proper precaution of stopping and looking for traffic. Relying solely on traffic signals is also a way that children may get into danger, because they are making the assumption that all cars are following the signals and laws of the road. We can keep our kids safer by teaching them to always be aware of their surroundings, use their eyes and ears to monitor traffic, and make sure they are seen by drivers before making an attempt to cross the street.
It is never too early to start teaching your children good walking habits. The NHTSA and other online resources have some great material to help get parents educated and actively teaching. Below are several links to pedestrian safety websites which have educational tools and resources to assist in teaching both children and adults. It is important to remember that children often learn by following examples. This means that verbalizing the safety rules of a pedestrian may not be enough. Some of the best ways for them to learn these safe habits are to experience them with adult supervision, receive explanations for each action, and receive praise when demonstrating safe behaviors.
Authored by Britni Sutton