Teach Your Children to Be Safe Pedestrians
Your children’s health and safety are of utmost concern to you. As they get older, they go off to school and play, and you cannot always be there to protect them. Naturally, you worry about them getting hurt. The best way to ease your worries and increase your children’s safety is to teach them to be cautious and safe pedestrians.
One of the biggest safety threats to children is moving vehicles. Teaching your children about pedestrian safety at a young age can help to decrease their risk of being involved in crashes as a pedestrian.
Elementary School Children at Greatest Risk
Elementary age children are at greatest risk for vehicle-pedestrian crashes because of their limited developmental skills. Children in this age group:
- Have a field of vision that is narrower than an adult’s
- Are less able to determine the direction of sounds
- Cannot accurately judge the speed or distance of moving vehicles
- Lack the ability to understand how much time and distance is needed for a vehicle to stop
- Overestimate their abilities
- Are easily distracted, tending to focus on one thing at a time, like a ball or a friend
- Are easily hidden by bushes, parked cars, and other objects
- Often imitate inappropriate behavior
What can you do to protect your child against injury or death resulting from a pedestrian accident? Here are some guidelines.
General Safety Tips
- Children under age 10 should not cross the street on their own. Provide proper supervision and teach your children traffic skills.
- Hold young children’s hands when you are near traffic.
- Make sure that children get in and out of the car on the curb side.
- Require children to wear reflective materials and carry a flashlight at dawn and dusk.
- Only allow children to play in designated areas, such as playgrounds or fenced in yards.
Do not allow children to play in areas like:
- Unfenced yards
- Parking lots or parking garages
Teach Your Child Traffic Skills
- Teach children how to cross the street safely. Walk with them. Take the time to explain the rules as you are walking. Be sure that you are demonstrating the proper traffic skills.
- If there are no sidewalks, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the road. Teach children to keep far to the left, away from traffic.
- Before crossing, children need to look left-right-left again. Be sure that they are really paying attention. Are they looking carefully and listening for approaching vehicles?
- When crossing in front of a bus, children should be at least 10 feet in front of the vehicle. Teach children never to cross behind the bus.
- When crossing at intersections:
- Encourage children to be especially careful at intersections. Teach them to look over their shoulders in case vehicles are turning.
- Even if there is a stop sign or red signal light, children should still be aware. Drivers may not pay attention to the traffic signs.
- Before crossing the street, children should wait until the vehicle is at a complete stop.
- Teach children to always look for approaching vehicles before stepping into the crosswalk. Even if the "Walk" signal indicates that it is safe to cross, drivers may be distracted and not see pedestrians.
National SAFE KIDS Campaign
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Canada Safety Council
National SAFE KIDS Campaign website. Available at:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Prevent pedestrian crashes: Parents and caregivers of elementary school children. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem.dfedd570f698cabbbf30811060008a0c/. Updated October 2008. Accessed on January 21, 2009
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic safety facts—children, 2007. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem.dfedd570f698cabbbf30811060008a0c/. Accessed on January 21, 2009.
Safe Kids USA. Pedestrian safety tips. Safe Kids USA website. Available at: http://www.safekids.org/safety-basics/safety-resources-by-risk-area/pedestrian/pedestrian-safety-tips-1.html. Accessed November 8, 2010.
Tabibi Z, Pfeffer K. Chossing a safe place to cross the road: the relationship between attention and identification of safe and dangerous road-crossing sites.
Child Care Health Dev.
Tolmie A, Thomson JA, Foot HC, et al. The effects of adult guidance and peer discussion on the development of children’s representations: evidence from the training of pedestrian skills.
Br J Psychol.
Utah Department of Health website. Available at: