It is vital that children start to learn road safety concepts in early childhood; here are 10 vital concepts to teach them
10 Vital Road Safety Messages for Parents to teach their Children
- Always hold an adult’s hand when crossing the road! I think it’s also a good rule for parents to hold children’s hands anywhere near roads, especially with very young children around you as they have such a tendency to dash away from you so quickly. Remember to hold their hands in and around car parks too, they can be such dangerous places for children if they’re not holding hands.
2. Always wear a helmet when riding bikes and scooters! This one is so important and yet when I’m out on a bike ride with my son I see so many children (and parents) riding without helmets! NSW road rules stipulate that bicycle riders need to wear helmets on roads and road related areas. You can view the laws on the Transport for NSW website. It is so important for parents who are also riding to set a good example and instill safe habits early.
3. STOP! LOOK! LISTEN! and THINK! before crossing the road. Parents can practice this with their children every time they cross the road, while holding hands of course. Busy schedules, busy lives can mean parents may be tempted to grab the hands of their child, quickly look and do a dash across the road but impressionable young children learn from parents first! So make sure you as parents are role modelling HOW to stop at the kerb, look both ways, listen for traffic noises and teaching our little ones to think critically about whether it is safe to cross the road or not. Critically thinking about the safety of crossing might include a discussion about whether you are crossing on a safe pedestrian (zebra) crossing or not, or whether you are crossing at traffic lights and waiting for the green man indicator with the noise indicator for pedestrians too. As a side note, for those that may be sight and/or hearing impaired, pedestrian crossing buttons in Australia often feature a button which vibrates as well, indicating the safe time to cross.
4. Use the Safety Door. Parents will need to instruct children as to which door is the ‘Safety Door’. It is the rear kerbside door, so it is the safest door for entry and exit from the vehicle. It can be very dangerous for children to enter or exit a vehicle from the other rear door which is next to traffic so you may want to place a small sticker on the inside of the ‘Safety Door’ reminding children that this door is the best and safest to use.
5. Always wear a seat belt in the car! Parents also need to ensure that children KEEP their seat belt on for the duration of the trip! Gone are the days when kids were all squished into the back seat of a car, no seat belts, playing ‘corners’ and hanging onto the ‘Holy Sh**’ handles (roof handles) to prevent injury when the vehicle was turning corners! I shudder to think how many injuries and deaths occurred from this happening far too often. It’s common sense parents, just make sure the seatbelts are on and stay on! You can read more about Car Safety for Kids in my article HERE.
6. Ride bicycles and scooters on bike tracks and footpaths, NOT on the road. Children 16 years and younger are encouraged to ride on the footpath (or bike tracks) and not on the road. This helps to keep them safe until they have the decision making skills and knowledge of road rules to stay safe while riding on the roads. Parents need to ensure that children under 16 are not riding on roads, and that all riders wear a properly fitted helmet of course.
7. Always cross the road at a pedestrian (zebra) crossing or at the traffic lights. Parents can show their children how to Stop, Look, Listen & Think when crossing and make sure that children do not try to cross the road anywhere other than a proper pedestrian crossing or at lights as this can be extremely dangerous, especially if a driver takes their eyes off the road for a brief moment.
8. Never run in car parks! This is something I see so so often and it terrifies me. Working in a daycare centre, we have a car park at the front of our centre and we have seen many occasions where parents and children are arriving or leaving together and children are dashing through the car park or into or out of our driveway, not holding hands and parents are unaware or distracted on their phones. I have seen many near misses and had to remind many parents to hold the hands of their children in the car park and instruct their children that this is not a place to be running or dashing about. I have also seen many cars enter and leave our car park far too quickly, without a thought of taking caution in case a child is around them.
9. Use the correct Child Restraint, properly fitted to your car. A copy of the Kidsafe guide to appropriate Child Restraints in Australia can be found here. Children are safest in the rear seat of a vehicle and remember, as children grow, their need for a different type of restraint may change. More information about Child Restraints can be found on the Kids and Traffic website here. Children under the age of 4 need to sit in the back seat. Children aged 4 – 7 can only sit in the front seat if all seats in the back are already taken up with children aged younger, in proper restraints of course.
10. Never leave children alone in cars! Yet I see this happen all the time. At our early learning service, we have seen parents come to drop off their kids leaving a handbag on the front seat of the car. Within 5 minutes, someone has come, smashed the window of the car and taken off with handbag and phone. When parents attempt to leave children alone in cars in our car park while they pick up or drop off other children, we remind them of this instance and ask them not to leave children alone in cars as it is simply an unsafe practice, whether it’s because of the potential of an intruder, or because temperatures rise so quickly in a car on a hot day. More information can be found on the Kidsafe website here regarding leaving children unattended in cars.
Fun activities Parents can do with their children to teach about Road Safety
There are many educational resources available to parents and educators to teach children about road safety. As educators, we can make these activities part of our Intentional Teaching, ensuring children learn specific concepts. Here are some ideas:
- Sing songs and rhymes such as ‘I’m a little seat belt’, sung to the tune of ‘I’m a little teapot’. You can find some here on the NSW road safety website.
- Make Traffic light sandwiches (tomato, carrot and lettuce sandwich), cutting a small hole in the bread to see each colour.
- Play with toy cars and make road signs – Stop, Give Way, Traffic lights.
- Paint or collage traffic lights, or a pedestrian crossing
- Use toy cars to ‘drive’ them through paint and onto a drawn road on paper, stopping them at the Stop sign, parking them etc
- Play Stop and Go on bikes and scooters in a safe place.
- Practice holding hands and letting go while dancing the ‘Hokey Pokey’ or doing folk dancing, reminding them how we hold hands near the roads.
- Read stories that discuss road safety concepts. There are books and stories available on the Kids and Traffic website here.
Summary of Road Safety – What Parents Can teach their Children
Road Safety is something parents and educators need to be teaching children on a regular basis and when it is current and relevant for children. The above concepts can prevent major injury or death and should be treated as vital information for EVERY child. There is a lot of information and resources on both the Kidsafe and Kids and Traffic websites and many ideas overlap. Please teach these concepts to your children regularly and keep them safe.