Pedestrian safety and road safety for kids
Until the age of 11-12 years, children need active adult supervision to help them safely navigate driveways, cars, roads and car parks. 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 around 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. For example:
- Always stop, look, listen and think before crossing a road, and use pedestrian crossings wherever possible.
- Always cross at the safest point, even if you have to walk further out of your way.
- If you’re crossing at the lights, wait for the green signal.
- Put away phones and other devices when you’re walking around roads and cars.
Talking about road safety, pedestrian safety and safety around driveways and car parks
Supervision is the key to road safety, pedestrian safety, and safety around driveways, car parks and so on.
While you’re actively supervising your child, you can help them understand why safety rules are important by talking and explaining. This will make it more likely that your child will follow the rules, even when you’re not there to supervise.
For example, when you’re around roads, driveways, car parks and so on, you can explain to your child why it’s important for them to hold your hand, check for cars, cross at pedestrian crossings or lights and so on.
You can also ask your child simple questions to get them thinking about pedestrian and road safety:
- Where is the safest place to cross this road?
- What do we need to do before we cross the road together?
- Why do we hold hands to cross the road together?
- When is it safe to cross the road?
- What do we look for when we cross the road?
- What sounds are we listening for when we cross the road?
Start talking about road safety while your child is still in the stroller. For example, ‘Uh oh, car coming. We’ll wait until it’s gone before we cross’. Keep talking about road safety as your child gets older.
Young children are particularly at risk in driveways and yards. Toddlers and preschoolers might not yet realise that cars are dangerous. They can also move quietly and quickly. They get 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 toddlers – older children can get hurt this way too.
Here are driveway safety guidelines:
- Before moving a vehicle in a driveway, check that no child is behind, in front of, or around the vehicle. Always do a visual check around the vehicle. Don’t rely only on car cameras and sensors.
- Never leave young children alone to play near parked or moving vehicles in driveways.
- Separate your child’s play areas from driveways. For example, you could fence off the driveway or garage so your child can’t run towards it.
- Get into the habit of waving goodbye to people from inside your home or another safe spot – for example, on the front porch.
- Always hold your child’s hand near cars, even if you’re just near your driveway or walking to the letterbox.
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. You can use similar safety guidelines to keep your child safe around car parks.
Safety getting in and out of the car
If possible, use the kerbside, rear passenger door when getting your child into and out of their car seat. 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’re getting your baby out. Once you’re all out of the car, 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 is less likely to move out of sight.
It’s a good idea to activate childproof door locks so your child can’t get out of the car until an adult is present and it’s safe to do so. Your car manual will tell you where the locks are in your car and how to use them.
Pedestrian safety: walking and crossing roads
You can help children develop pedestrian safety skills and road safety skills by giving them plenty of practice around real roads – for example, by walking with children to and from child care or school, around the block or to the local shops.
While your child is learning, these pedestrian safety guidelines will help to keep your child safe around roads:
- Hold your child’s hand when crossing roads together and wherever there’s traffic or cars. Take special care where there’s heavy traffic, high-speed traffic, narrow or non-existent footpaths, or things that block the view, like parked cars and trucks, trees, hill crests or crowded footpaths.
- Always cross at pedestrian crossings or corners, wait for the lights, and look in every direction to check there are no cars coming.
- Stop at driveways and check there are no cars reversing or entering.
Safe to go solo: knowing when your child is ready
Your child’s readiness to cope safely in traffic on their own depends on their development and how much practice they’ve had around real roads and traffic.
As a general guide, your child is ready to navigate roads safely on their own when your child:
- knows, understands and can confidently follow road safety rules
- understands that traffic conditions can change suddenly and drivers can do unexpected things
- can pay attention to vehicles on the road and work out how far away they are and how fast they’re approaching
- can choose safe places to cross roads.
You can still help by:
- reminding your child to always cross roads at pedestrian crossings or lights
- planning a route that keeps your child off roads as much as possible
- checking your child stops, looks, listens and thinks before crossing the road
- talking about road rules in simple terms
- walking and talking together with your child around the streets
- making sure your child wears colours that are bright and easy to see.