Kids are curious creatures. They like to explore wherever they shouldn’t, touch the untouchable, eat the inedible and skip with gay abandon in any direction (or on any road) they please, even if two cars and a lorry truck have the same idea.
Children are vulnerable on our roads. It’s essential to make the rules of road safety second nature to a child, as failure to do so can result in a heartbreaking catastrophe. Children can be educated on road safety several ways. Parents and teachers can directly educate children about road safety, kids can play games and role-play activities around staying safe and there are even songs to sing to help this behaviour becomes second nature.
Road safety issues fall into the following main areas:
- the use of seat belts
- passenger safety
- pedestrian messages, e.g. crossing the road
- playing near roads and home driveways
Seatbelt messages – buckle up!
A scary fact – 80% of the children aged between 0 and 4 years injured in traffic accidents, are injured because they were not wearing seatbelts. Does this sound surprising in this day and age of safety consciousness? It does.
It is imperative (and a legal necessity) that children are taught to always wear a seatbelt in the car. In Australia, all children must be safely fastened in the correct child car seat for their age and size. When a child is properly secured in an approved child car seat he or she is less likely to be killed or injured in a car accident than those using an adult seat belt.
When in the car, the following rules must always apply:
- always wear a seatbelt and stay buckled up – even if the child is asleep;
- always get in and out of the car through the safest door – that is the one furthest away from road traffic;
- choose the safest child restraint (car seat or booster) on the market and remember that as children get older, the requirements will change;
- avoid driver distraction – set rules for car travel and behaviour in the car that children clearly understand;
- for long trips, make sure kids are kept busy with something to mentally stimulate them;
- make sure the children are never left alone in a car;
- carrying additional accessories and toys should be avoided – these could turn into dangerous projectiles if the car stops suddenly.
We’d all like to think that kids are safe when playing in the privacy of our own homes, but this isn’t always the case. Every year, many children are killed or injured in the driveway of the family home. Tragically, they are often killed or injured by their own loving parents. There are other precarious areas for young children too, such as car parks, back laneways, yards and farms.
Relying on your vision is not enough to protect children from harm. Small children are very difficult to see when they are immediately in front or behind the vehicle. Additionally, all cars have blind spots, making it easy for accidents to happen.
To reduce the risk of driveway or similar accidents, keep three things in mind. Monitor the children closely, remove children from playing near vehicle access, and use technology in your car to view blind spots. The best way to ensure the safety of small children when moving your car in and around your driveway, farmyard or laneway is to ensure that they are either in the car with you or alternatively being held or watched by another responsible adult.
“Hold their hands or hold them close to keep them safe.”
– Kids and Traffic
Children have poor peripheral vision and find it hard to judge the distance and speed of oncoming cars. This is yet another reason why children should always be accompanied by an adult when crossing the road.
Simple rules regarding crossing the road should be encouraged and reinforced with children, such as:
- always cross the road with a grown-up;
- always hold a grown-up’s hand;
- if a grown-up’s hand is not available, make sure you hold onto a handbag, clothes or a pram.
Fun ways to learn about road safety education for children
Finally, there are lots of fun songs, games and activities to help children to learn about road and car safety. Here are two terrific online sources:
Road safety games for kids: http://www.det.wa.edu.au/ccm-ldn-theme-assets/__ccm__/themes-prod/sdera/flash/road_safety_games/index.html
Constable Kenny: http://www.constablekenny.org.au/parents/road-safety/
Sage Institute of Child Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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