This is Part Two of a two-part series.
Your daughter or son is born and you understand you have new responsibilities. There is the expectation to raise your child to be a strong, intelligent, and caring adult. Being a parent requires you work day in and day out supporting, caring, holding accountable, and loving him or her. Most parents understand the importance of continuously providing guidance as well as being a good role model.
Traffic Safety in the Early Years
However, many parents seem to forget or fail to understand the importance of providing guidance and being a good role model in the area of traffic safety. In the U.S., car crashes are one of the top causes of death for all children ages 1 through 15. Globally, it a leading cause of death for children above the age of five. Parents are a vital component in raising children to be traffic safety aware, and it has to happen years before children start to drive. Traffic safety awareness is more than knowing how to drive.
Children learn through organized efforts and programs set up by schools and others to educate children about road safety, and they learn from you, the parent. Part One of this article discussed some of those organized efforts. Part Two, this week’s article, addresses the parental role in educating children about road safety well before they begin driving.
Being an active participant in developing your child’s road safety skills includes being a positive role model in the family, maybe even a leader in your community. A great resource is NHTSA’s Parents Central. It provides a wealth of information specifically for parents on raising road safety conscious children.
It should go without saying that young children do not understand what is needed to be safe near roads, but even children in the ager range of 5-9 years require supervision by an adult or responsible older child. You should always be around and supervising whenever a child is close to a road. A child doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to understand the dangers to be on their own.
During these years, this is a perfect time to TEACH:
- Talk – Tell your child how to be a safe pedestrian:
- Walking on the sidewalk when available
- Wearing bright clothing to be seen
- Crossing at a cross walk
- Remember: Stop, Look, Listen, AND Think – is it safe to cross, before crossing
- Educate – Find different road signs and talk about each one and what it means.
- Advocate – Make sure your child is wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle, skateboard or rollerblades.
- Click – Have your child riding in the back seat of the car with the right safety seat/booster/seat belt fastened.
- Help – Your child understand what it means to be safe.
Ages 10 – 13
As a child matures, she becomes more independent, but that does not mean she can be left on her own. As a parent, you still need to talk about road safety and make sure your child follows safe procedures.
In the 10-13 years old range it is important to SHOW:
- Start – Discuss what it means to be road safety aware.
- Help – Sit down with your child and help him choose a safe route to school or a friend’s house or the neighborhood store – anywhere he is likely to walk on his own.
- Opportunity– When in the car, take the opportunity to talk about safety, such as why a seat belt should always be worn, or why it is safer for a child to be in the back seat.
- Watch – Make sure to keep your eyes open and check regularly that your child is following safety procedures.
As important as the SHOW is that as a parent you lead by example and act in a safe fashion; always buckle your seat belt, do not talk or text on a cell phone while driving, and do not drink and drive. Be open to your child if she corrects your traffic safety faux pas, such as not buckling your seat belt or not waiting for a green light to walk across the street. That can help the discussion and encourage your child’s buy-in to a safety mindset.
Children follow the example set by their parents, both good and bad. With traffic fatalities a leading cause of children’s deaths, the opportunity to set good examples in traffic safety is too important to pass up. This time together is a wonderful chance to explore safety and make a difference in your family.
What have you done to teach or show your child road safety? Let me know in the comments below.