How to talk to young children about road traffic safety
In association with Stock Signs
My five-year-old scared the life out of me recently when he ran out into the middle of a road.
It’s so unlike him. Yes, he’s an energetic and lively young boy, but he has a sensible head on him too. We’ve talked a lot about road safety and all my children know the dangers. But on this particular occasion, we were with a group of friends from school, and the kids were all super excited. They were running ahead and failed to stop when we, their mummies, shouted to them to stop. I’d quickened my pace as much as I could with a toddler in the buggy and a pavement full of kids and adults, but I couldn’t get there quick enough. The next thing I knew, he was half way across the road.
Thankfully, it was a quiet road. There was no traffic coming. He was fine. As soon as he realised what he’d done, he looked white as a sheet and as I could see the tears in his eyes. My heart was in my mouth, I could feel myself shaking and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It could have been so much worse. How did all those kids forget everything they knew?!
It’s made me go back to basics with my children in terms of road safety, reiterating everything I’ve taught them.
The statistics are harrowing – but my two eldest children are old enough to be told these things.
In 2014, on British roads:
- 9 children aged 0-4 were killed and 277 seriously injured
- 10 children aged 5-7 were killed and 292 seriously injured
- 10 children aged 8-11 were killed and 593 seriously injured
The Department for Transport has some great free resources online, with advice for schools and parents. There are also printable resources at Road Safety Wales, available bilingually. We also searched online and found plenty of free colouring sheets of road signs, and have been colouring them in and talking about what they mean. If you wanted to go one step further, Stock Signs sell a range of road signs online.
There’s plenty you can do with even the youngest of children to introduce the idea of road safety.
Here are 9 top tips.
1. For very young children, play games when they are in their car seat or buggy. Mine have been shouting “Green means go. Red means stop” at traffic lights since they first started to talk. Get them to press the button at a pedestrian crossing and to tell you as soon as they see the green man. Ask them to point out a zebra crossing, or a car/bus/motorbike. Ask them if the cars are going fast or slowly. As the DfT website says “building up your child’s language will help him or her to understand traffic: use words to describe speed, size, shape, directions, or talk about signs, lights, signals and road makings.” We’ve also found online colouring sheets featuring the signs a good way to start talking about what they mean.
2. Children learn by copying, so set a good example when it comes to road safety. Wait for the green man before crossing the road. Find a safe space before crossing. Look left, right and left again. Walk, don’t run. Don’t use your mobile phone when crossing the road.
3. Park safely around your child’s school or nursery. Those zigzag yellow lines are there for a reason. Parking there could endanger the lives of your own and other children, as well as giving them mixed messages that road signs don’t really matter.
4. Always hold hands with young children near traffic (or make sure they hold onto a buggy, if you are pushing one). Make sure children walk on the side of the pavement away from the traffic. If there is no pavement, then walk on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic.
5. Children should not cycle or scoot across roads; make sure they come off and hold your hand to cross the road (younger children) or walk next to you while pushing the bike/scooter (older children).
6. Choose the safest places to cross: a recognised crossing, such as a zebra, pelican or puffin crossing, a traffic island, a footbridge or subway. Explain to children that it can be harder to see approaching vehicles – and for them to see you also – if you are crossing between parked cars, junctions, bends or the brow of a hill.
7. If your only choice is to cross between parked cars, then look for a big space and check there’s a space on the other side of the road too. Make sure neither car is about to move off. Don’t cross near large vehicles – you could be standing in their blind spot, meaning the driver cannot see you.
8. Always follow the Green Cross Code. Find the safest place to cross. Stop just before you get to the kerb. Look all around for traffic and listen. If traffic is coming, let it pass. When it is safe, walk straight across the road – do not run. Show your child how to stop, look and listen.
9. Let your child show you that they can cross the road safely. Practice on quiet roads first.
Have you talked to your children about road traffic safety and crossing the road safely? Do let me know in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting @cardiffmummy
Oh gosh that must have been such a scary experience. I’d have been so scared. It shows how important it is to keep reminding children of the dangers, doesn’t it?
These are really good tips. I actually find it really difficult teaching my eldest about road safety. I really need to encourage her to get off her scooter at roads x