By Raising Children Network
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Even if you don’t use a car, you and your child will probably be around vehicles quite a bit – when you’re in the front yard at home, in car parks or going for walks. Young children don’t have the skills to be safe around cars on their own, so watching and guiding them is important.

Mother and children at zebra crossing

Did you know?

One in 10 children hit by a car are in their own driveway at the time.

 

The basics

Until the age of 10 or so, children need active adult supervision to help them navigate cars, roads and car parks safely. Even children who seem to know all the road safety rules won’t necessarily remember to follow them.

Always holding your child’s hand when he’s near cars is a great first step. You can also teach your child about road safety, including how to be safe around parked cars and on footpaths and driveways.

Your child will learn about pedestrian safety by watching you, so use safe behaviour around cars, roads, footpaths and car parks – always stop, look, listen and think before crossing a road, and use pedestrian crossings wherever possible. Describe what you’re doing each time, so your child can understand why it’s important.

Preventing driveway accidents

Toddlers are especially at risk in driveways and yards – they don’t realise cars are dangerous, and can move quietly and quickly. They get highly absorbed in whatever they’re doing, including chasing a ball behind a car. They often don’t stop, even if you ask them to. And it’s not just littlies – older children can get hurt this way too.

Some basic precautions can help keep your child safe:

  • If you can, fence off the driveway or garage so your child can’t run towards or behind a car. It’s also a good idea to fence off any yards or play areas so your child can’t get onto the road.
  • Always hold your child’s hand near cars, even if you’re just near your driveway or walking to the letterbox. Explain why it’s important for your child to hold your hand.
  • Double-check where your child is before you reverse your vehicle – she should either be safely belted in the car or with an adult in plain sight outside the car.

It’s worth noting that car parks are similar to driveways in that reversing drivers find it very difficult to see small children behind their cars.

Children under two are most at risk of being hit or crushed by a reversing vehicle, often in their own driveway.

Getting in and out of the car

Always use the kerbside, rear passenger door when putting your child into his restraint. This way, your child will get used to always getting in and out of the car through the safest door – the one furthest away from traffic.

If you have a baby and a toddler, keep your toddler safe inside the car while you first deal with the baby. Once out, hold hands with your child and together work out where cars could come from before you walk away from the car. When you go back to your car, help your toddler in first, because your baby’s less likely to move out of sight.

Going for walks and crossing roads

As your child grows, you’re likely to be out walking and crossing roads more and more. Even quiet side streets on the way to the local park can be dangerous. They can also be a great learning opportunity – you can use them to help your child develop her awareness of road safety.

While your child’s learning, these guidelines will help prevent accidents:

  • It’s essential to hold your child’s hand when crossing roads together and wherever there’s traffic or cars. Take special care where there’s a lot of traffic, high-speed traffic, narrow or non-existent footpaths, or things that block the view, such as parked cars and trucks, trees, hill crests or crowded footpaths.
  • Your child will learn by example, so always cross at pedestrian crossings or corners, wait for the lights, and look in every direction to check there are no cars coming. To help your child understand about when it’s safe to cross, explain what you’re doing.
  • Stop at driveways and check there are no cars reversing or entering.
  • Start talking about road safety while your child is still in the stroller. For example, ‘Uh oh, car coming. Better wait until it’s gone before we cross’. Keep talking about road safety as he grows.
  • Even if your child protests or wants to run, tell her she can only cross roads when she’s holding your hand. Praise her when she holds on without a fuss.

Knowing when your child is ready to go solo

Your child is ready to navigate roads safely on his own when he:

  • knows and understands road safety rules
  • seems to be able to judge road traffic – this involves paying attention to and interpreting the movement of vehicles on the road
  • understands that even though he must follow the road rules, drivers might not
  • can choose safe places to cross roads.

You can still help by:

  • checking your child stops, looks, listens and thinks before crossing the road
  • talking about road rules in simple terms
  • walking around the streets together to raise your child’s awareness of traffic
  • making sure your child wears colours that are bright and easy to see.
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  • Last Updated 15-02-2011
  • Last Reviewed 31-05-2010
  • Berry, J. G., & Harrison, J. E. (2008). Serious injury due to land transport accidents. Australia, 2005-06 (Injury Research and Statistics Report No. 42.INJCAT 113). Retrieved from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: http://www.nisu.flinders.edu.au/pubs/reports/2008/injcat113.php

    Cross, D.S., & Hall, M.R. (2005). Child pedestrian safety: The role of behavioural science. Medical Journal of Australia, 182, 318-319.