The health and safety of your children is of the utmost importance to you. Growing children play more independently, and may even go to school by themselves or with friends. Walking is a great form of exercise and helps children get more physical activity, but it can be dangerous if they don't follow proper road safety. Because you can't always be there to protect your children, it's natural to worry about them getting hurt.

"Moving vehicles pose one of the largest threats to children," said Darcy Martin, RN, BSN, CEN, CPST, injury prevention coordinator at Swedish Medical Center. "Teach your children to be safe pedestrians, so you know they have a decreased chance of being involved in a pedestrian crash, even when you're not around."

High risk for elementary-aged children

Due to limited developmental skills, elementary-aged children are at high risk for crashes between moving vehicles and pedestrians. Young children around this age:

  • Have a narrow field of vision, especially when compared to adults.
  • Have a more difficult time determining where sounds are coming from.
  • Are unable to accurately judge how fast or far away a moving vehicle may be.
  • Are unable to understand that moving vehicles require a certain amount of time and space to stop.
  • Have a false sense of security when it comes to their abilities.
  • Tend to focus on a single item, like a toy or a friend, making them easily distracted.
  • Can be easily obscured by bushes, parked cars and other objects.
  • Tend to imitate behavior, even if it's inappropriate.

Follow the below guidelines to help protect your children from injury, or even death, as a result of a pedestrian accident involving a moving vehicle.

Important street safety guidelines  

  • Children aged 10 and under should cross the street under proper supervision, not on their own.
  • Hold your children's hands when you are around traffic.
  • Have children get in and out of the car at the curb.
  • At dawn and dusk, have your children wear reflective materials, as well as carry a flashlight.
  • Allow your children to play in designated areas, like playgrounds or yards with fences. Keep the following areas off limits:
    • Driveways
    • Yards without fences
    • Streets
    • Parking lots and garages

Traffic skills for children

  • Walk with your children and teach them the safe way to cross the street. Take your time explaining rules as you go, and don't forget to demonstrate proper traffic skills.
  • In the absence of sidewalks, teach children that pedestrians should walk on the left-hand side of the street. Explain to your children that they should keep to the left, far away from traffic.
  • Teach your children to look left, right, then left again before crossing the street. Have your children look both ways and listen for approaching vehicles every time.
  • Teach children that it's not safe to cross behind busses at the bus stop. When crossing the street in front of a bus, children should stay a safe distance in front of it, at least 10 feet.
  • When crossing the street at an intersection:
    • Teach children to watch for turning vehicles by looking over their shoulders.
    • Warn that not all drivers will pay attention to traffic signs and to stay alert, even if there is a stop sign or red light.
    • Teach children to wait for moving vehicles to come to a complete stop before crossing the street.
    • Teach your children to keep an eye out for approaching vehicles before proceeding into a cross walk, even if street signs indicate that it's safe.