Monday, 17 September 2012

Safe Pedestrians: parents, nannies and their children

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but there are times when it can be a parent's or nanny's nightmare.

The odd expletive or a frank, unflattering comment is repeated; a gesture used; a behaviour copied....these are embarrassing, or cute, but sometimes, the behaviours in particular can have nasty consequences.

Who watched as you dashed across the road to post a letter, or dodged between cars on your way to the supermarket, or didn't stop at the red light  or didn't wear your seatbelt because it was only a short trip or talked on the mobile phone while driving?

What did these impulsive behaviours of yours teach an impressionable child?
  • to take risks when crossing the road or in the car
  • to disobey the law.
YOU are your child's role model as a pedestrian, as a passenger and as a driver.

YOU are old enough to know safe practices and to follow them carefully.

Last week we looked at safe procedures in the car, but pedestrian safety is also important.

How then do you teach a child to be safe as a pedestrian?
Many authorities believe that is not until children are aged 10 to 12 that they have the understanding, skills and experience to cope with traffic, including this Monash University study.

  • Insist that your toddler and young child holds your hand at all times when walking in the streets.  The only safe alternative to holding hands is to use a stroller.
  • Practise stopping at driveways and cross streets to check if cars are coming, especially emphasising that cars can be reversing and so often the driver cannot see them.
  • Choose safe places to cross the road, ie where you have a good view of the traffic in all directions.  It is often easier to get a good view mid-block rater than at a corner where you may have to look behind as well as ahead and sideways, because of turning traffic.
  • Cross the road at marked crossings where available eg school crossings (with the flags out), pedestrian crossings and at traffic lights.  Where pedestrian signals are available, only cross when the light is green.  Even at these regulated crossings, don't cross while there are moving vehicles.  As children get older, encourage them to participate in the decision making.
  • Teach the fourfold process: STOP, LOOK LISTEN and THINK. and go out often with your child(ren) to practise these skills.
  • When getting children in and out of the car, always use the kerbside door.
  • In car parks, there is often no kerbside door, but continue to use the same passenger door. By using safety locks in your car, do not allow the child(ren) to leave the car until you are there to open the door for them.  Remove and place in a stroller any infants, then the older child(ren) can get out.  Once out, check, with the children, for moving vehicles from all directions.  The recent tragic death of a young boy, chasing a football into a car park underlined the dangers there, as he had checked for cars on the way to pick the ball up, but ran straight under a car on the way back.
The other area to consider is ensuring that toddlers and young children cannot 'escape' from the house unsupervised.  Check gates and front doors are locked or secured with childproof locks to contain the wandering toddler and to give older children a moment to collect their thoughts before they go off.

It is probably not possible to prevent all road accidents involving children, but by setting a good example, by teaching children safe practices, and by limiting their unsupervised exposure as pedestrians until they are 10 to 12 years old, it is possible to minimise the risk.

Useful links:

Factors associated with ability to cross roads safely, Monsh University Study

A Child's World of Traffic , a VicRoads Video.

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