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 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.

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 man. And put away phones and other devices when you’re walking around roads and cars.

A top tip for helping children learn about pedestrian safety and road safety is to describe what you’re doing each time, so your child can understand why it’s important.

Preventing driveway accidents

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 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 toddlers – older children can get hurt this way too.

Here are some driveway safety guidelines:

  • Before moving a vehicle in a driveway, check that no child is behind or in front of the vehicle. Don’t rely only on car cameras and sensors. Always do a visual check around the vehicle.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 help keep your children safe.

Safety getting in and out of the car

If possible, use the kerbside, rear passenger door when getting your child into and out of her 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 when 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.

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 prevent accidents:

  • 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. To help your child understand about when and where 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.

As you walk together or when you’re near roads, you can ask your child simple questions to get her 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 crossing the road?
  • What sounds are we listening for when we cross the road?

Safe to go solo: knowing when your child is ready

Your child’s readiness to cope safely in traffic on his own depends on his development and how much practice he’s had around real roads and traffic.

As a general guide, your child is ready to navigate roads safely on her own when she knows and understands road safety rules. She also needs to understand that even though she must follow the road rules, drivers don’t always follow the rules.

Your child must be able to pay attention to vehicles on the road and work out how far away they are and how fast they’re coming towards him.

And, of course, your child must be able to 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 and talking together with your child around the streets
  • making sure your child wears colours that are bright and easy to see.