No more pencils, no more books… another school year has come to a close, and that means one thing: The kids are free!! Well, maybe not exactly free, but they are out in droves, enjoying the summer weather and their newfound freedom from the classroom. Whether you’re a parent or not, that also means that you have to be hyper-aware when driving because there is more of a likelihood that children will be out and about during the day doing what kids do—darting after a stray ball in the road, playing a spirited game of tag, chasing after a neighborhood kitten, or just engaging in basic roughhousing without necessarily being aware of their surroundings.
Summer safety is two-fold: If you have young children, you need to teach them to be safe around traffic and roadways. If you’re a driver, parent or not, you must be sure that you’re aware of the surroundings as you drive, be prepared for the unexpected, and avoid distracted driving at all costs.
Distracted driving is more than just texting. Studies show that mobile phone-based distracted driving includes drivers who are viewing Facebook, checking email and doing other activities on their phones beside sending or reading texts. Regardless, any mobile phone use while driving is a distraction. It’s been reported that distraction is a factor in 80% of crashes. While we hear most about texting or other mobile phone use as a main source of distraction, there are other activities that drivers do all the time that also cause them to be distracted, including:
- drinking (including non-alcoholic beverages like soda or coffee)
- viewing a map or GPS for directions
- talking with passengers
A distraction can be visual (anything that takes your eyes off the road), manual (takes your hands off the wheel) or cognitive (takes your mind off driving). A distracted driver is 23 times more likely to cause an accident than someone who is not distracted; a drunk driver is seven times more likely to cause an accident. So many of us are certain that we would NEVER drink and drive, yet we have no hesitation about eating a sandwich or checking our phone while driving – yet, it’s even more dangerous!
Teaching Traffic Safety to Children
Regardless of how “safe” your neighborhood is, young children should not be allowed outside alone if there are nearby roads where there can be moving vehicles. Until they become older, children simply cannot fully understand how dangerous a car can be. They also are unable to visually estimate how fast a car is moving. That means that it’s essential that you teach young children that they are not allowed to go in or near the street unless accompanied by an adult.
Even as a child is old enough to follow basic traffic precautions, teach him not to be too dependent on traffic signals like stoplights or stop signs. Let your child know that just because there is a red light or stop sign, it doesn’t mean that every motorist will definitely stop. The child should be taught not to cross or step into the street until he sees that an approaching vehicle is definitely coming to a complete stop and has made eye contact with the driver.
If you live in a community that has lots of traffic lights, teach your child to cross on the “new green”, as opposed to the “stale green” light. That rule will ensure that your child has enough time to make it fully across before the light changes. Now that lots of intersections include lights with a countdown clock that shows how many seconds remain before the light will change, encourage your child not to begin crossing if the seconds are already counting down, but to wait for the next cross cycle. It might be tempting for a child to try to “beat the clock”, but it’s not a safe way to cross a busy intersection.
Don’t Chase Toys into the Road!
Children are impulsive by nature. They laugh hard, play hard and are enthusiastic about their games – all of which is a fabulous part of being a kid. But, make sure that even if your kids are completely engaged in a game or with a toy, they are still aware that if a ball or other item goes too far afield and strays into the street, they know not to chase it. It can be hard, especially for young children, to resist the urge to just run for it. But, even for a cautious driver, when a child seemingly darts out of nowhere, there might not be enough time to stop. Teach your child that when a toy goes in the road, the child should stop at the curb and get an adult who can either retrieve it or guide as to when it is safe to cross.
Have a safe and happy summer!
Additional resources: education.com