Over the summer, your kids may spend more time out and about with you than they do during the school year. Furthermore, you may find that you have more opportunities to visit new locations: parks, malls, zoos, and more. No matter where you are, however, those extra street crossings offer the chance to discuss safely crossing the road or navigating in parking lots this summer.
What Your Child Needs to Know About Crossing the Road
How much your child needs to know about crossing the road may depend heavily on your child’s age. Very young children, for example, may need the reminder to stay close to adults in parking lots and when crossing the street, or to hold hands whenever they get to a street crossing. Older children, on the other hand, may need more information about crossing the street safely. Share these key safety tips with your child starting from a very young age to increase the odds that, when the time comes, your child will be able to successfully navigate road crossings.
1. Look left, look right, then look back to the left.
Traffic travels on the right side of the road, which means that it will be on your left as you’re crossing the street. Teach your child to start with a look to the left, then to the right (where traffic will not be as close and drivers will have more time to see you crossing), then back to the left again. That second look to the left can provide vital insight into the speed of vehicles already on the road or vehicles that may have turned out onto the road since your last look.
Encourage children to note everything taking place on the street around them before crossing.
2. Use crosswalks whenever possible.
Crosswalks are the ideal location to cross any street. In crosswalks, drivers know that pedestrians may step into the road, which means that they are more likely to slow down and exercise caution.
3. Wait for the signal.
In crosswalks with signals for walkers, teach children to wait for the signal before they cross the road. Teach them not to start crossing once the crosswalk sign starts counting down, since that could leave them with inadequate time to get across the intersection. Remind children to look before crossing even if they have right of way according to the traffic signal, since some drivers may not follow proper safety procedures.
4. Make sure drivers can see you in parking lots.
Teach children not to stop directly behind a vehicle at any time. Many children are short enough that drivers cannot reasonably see them in the rearview mirror or when turning to look out the back of the vehicle. While many modern vehicles do have backup cameras, you cannot guarantee that the vehicle you are standing behind will have one.
5. Stay close to an adult at all times.
Until your child is old enough and responsible enough to safely cross the street alone, encourage your child to stay close to an adult at all times on the street and in parking lots. Remind your child not to run ahead in the parking lot. If necessary, hold your child’s hand to help practice good parking lot behavior.
6. Wait for drivers to indicate that they see you before crossing the street.
Teach your child to wait for an acknowledgement that the driver of a vehicle sees them before they step out into the road or move to cross a parking lot. Remind them that a slowing vehicle is not sign enough: they need to wait until they are sure that the driver has acknowledged them. A vehicle that comes to a complete spot or a gesture from the driver indicating they can cross can offer the sign they need.
How to Teach Your Child About Crossing the Road Safely
Teaching your child to cross the road safely is an ongoing process. However, there are several strategies you can use to help ensure that your child knows what to do when crossing the street.
1. Model good street crossing behavior every time.
When crossing the street with your child, always use good crossing behavior, even when inconvenient. For example, you should not run across the street as the crosswalk counts down or ignore crosswalks in favor of crossing directly where you are. Even though you know that vehicles must yield to pedestrians already in crosswalks, do not step into the road if you see a vehicle coming.
2. Discuss proper street crossing behaviors and procedures with your child when crossing the street.
Don’t just model good street crossing behaviors for your child. Discuss them! Let your child know why you engage in specific behaviors, including why you always look both ways, why you look back to the left before crossing, and why you choose to wait for the signal before crossing. Use that walk to the park or the library as a chance to practice. When you go on vacation, if you explore the area on foot, take the opportunity to discuss features you may not see as often when you’re close to home.
3. Ask your child questions.
Ask your child to demonstrate that they can cross the street safely. Practice these steps together. Let your child dictate how you will cross the street, including when you should stop and when you should go ahead and cross. Step in if your child gets those instructions incorrect or misses a step to issue a reminder. Do not allow your child to cross the street alone until they demonstrate that they can complete the crossing safely when they are with you.
4. Watch from a distance.
The first few times your child crosses the street alone, take the opportunity to watch from a distance. Keep an eye on your child and see if they follow the rules when you aren’t right there with them. Try to avoid allowing your child to cross the street alone for the first time in an unfamiliar location, like on vacation, since distraction may increase the risk that they won’t follow the rules.
Contact a Lawyer If Your Child Gets Into an Accident on the Road
Sometimes, even all the steps you take to keep your child safe won’t be enough. If your child gets into an accident when crossing the street or parking lot due to the negligence of a driver, your family may deserve compensation. Contact Cambre & Associates to learn more about your right to file a claim.