Every year, approximately 630 children are killed in pedestrian fatalities.
The majority of these occur during the summer, when kids are playing outside more frequently. Here’s how to keep your kid safe from cars this summer.
Know Your Child’s Limits
Many parents feel comfortable with their children playing near or in the street in residential neighborhoods because they trust the child’s judgment and feel secure that they’ve enforced good safety rules about what to do when a car approaches. Unfortunately, children and adolescents are fundamentally less capable of gauging the speed of oncoming cars than adults are.
Children can’t reliably detect a car approaching at speeds of higher than 20 mph – and while your neighborhood may well have signs posted for that speed, you probably know that there are many drivers who ignore these signs and travel at 30 or 40 mph. Kids also have a harder time determining how fast a car is approaching if they are to one side of the vehicle, as they would be on a crosswalk, or if the child is in motion, as they frequently are.
Make Stricter Rules
Understanding your child’s limits in this regard can help you construct safety rules that better suit their ability. For example, instead of telling your children to get out of the street when a car approaches, you might tell them to get out of the street if a car so much as turns the corner a block away. Or if your street is one where cars may whip around corners at any moment, simply disallow playing in or near the street altogether, as well as crossing in the middle of the street.
Children under the age of 10 should flatly not be allowed to cross streets alone, no matter how well they obey the rules of traffic. They are more difficult for drivers to see and have a much harder time determining when they need to get out of the way if a driver has not seen them. Adult supervision is always best – better safe than sorry when it comes to your kids.
Practice the Boundaries
If your child is young and shouldn’t be playing near the street, but you don’t have an enclosed back yard for them to play in, you may allow them to play in the front yard. If you can, fence off the play area from the street and from your own driveway – sadly, at least 2 deaths a week occur in the United States when a driver backing out of a driveway doesn’t see a young child behind the vehicle.
While you should supervise your child if at all possible, it’s best to practice scenarios where you might step away briefly. Teach your children not to run out into the street after a ball or other toy by practicing what to do if it happens. Play catch with your child and deliberately overthrow now and then. Teach your child to stop at the boundary line of your front yard and let the ball go into the street.
You want to practice because a child’s impulse
control is poor, and even if they’re very clear on the rule, they may forget in the heat of the moment when their favorite toy goes sailing in front of a car. With practice, they will be able to recognize the impulse but not follow through – and while they’re practicing, you’re right there to stop them if they forget.
What to Do
While the stats around child fatalities in pedestrian accidents are scary, it’s worth noting that by far the greater danger is injury. Tens of thousands of children are hit by cars every year, while only a few are fatally injured. If your child is hit by a car, seek legal help immediately. If drivers are being safe, your child should never be in danger – and if your child has been hit, it is usually because of a driver’s carelessness, not yours or your child’s.