Road safety for children

Crossing the roadWhen we think about road safety, it's easy to conjure up oblivious tots chasing footballs into traffic. In fact, pedestrians aged 12 are at most risk of being killed or seriously injured.

The next big risk group is 12 to 16 year olds. A road safety report presented to the transport secretary in May 2013 stated: "Pedestrians 'failure to look properly' is the biggest contributory factor in accidents – representing nearly six out of 10 cases..."

With teens surgically attached to mobile devices and easily distracted by their peers, it's obvious why they're at such risk. The question is how to counter all the risk factors.  

The Green Cross Code

It's likely 12 is a critical age for pedestrian accidents because children are starting secondary school and (often for the first time) commuting independently on a daily basis.

Long before they reach this stage it's important to drill them in the Green Cross Code so that it's ingrained and second-nature by the time they no longer have you telling them to wait for the green man.

As you teach them road safety skills, give them time and space to practise, even if it means walking a few yards behind them. Once they're ready for secondary school you should be reminding and reinforcing.  

Stop Look Listen: the basics 

1. First find the safest place to cross

Encourage your child to look out for safe crossing spots eg zebra, pelican or toucan crossings as well as islands, subways or crossings controlled by a traffic warden.

They should aim to cross at a spot where they can see clearly in all directions and where they can be seen ie no crossing between parked cars.

2. Stop just before you get to the kerb

Teach your child to position themselves so they're not too close to the edge of the kerb and where they can take their time looking around for traffic.

3. Look all around for traffic and listen

4. If traffic is coming, let it pass

Children find it hard to judge the distance and speed of vehicles. Tell them it's always better to take their time and wait for all traffic to pass. Once the vehicle has passed they should have another good look around and listen. They shouldn't cross until there is a safe gap in the traffic and plenty of time to reach the other side. 

5. When it is safe, go straight across the road but do not run

They should keep looking and listening as they cross. 

What Mumsnetters say about teaching younger children road safety

  • It takes years to learn to cross safely, because children need to make so many judgements. If you practise the Green Cross Code out loud whenever you cross the road, they will pick it up from you. Eventually, you'll be able to say: 'What do you think? Is it safe to cross?' PrettyCandles
  • When my husband was young his mother got a cardboard box and ran over it with the car. Apparently he was quite shocked by it but was much more careful around cars afterwards. camdancer
  • I tell the kids, 'Did you see that driver wave to say we could cross? That was very kind of them. We still need to check for other traffic though. Nothing coming? Walk quickly. Keep looking and listening. And wave to say thank you.' BrainzYum
  • We need to teach our children to be independent - eight is not too early to start. We teach our children the Green Cross Code and then don't give them the chance to use it. Hunn1e


What Mumsnetters say about reinforcing road safety with pre-teens

  • I 'trained' my two by walking with them so they knew the route, then behind them at a distance. I let them do errands on their own to build up their confidence. GrungeBlobPrimpants
  • Start with little steps at a time: when you are walking to and from primary school let your child walk in front of you; then let them set off a few minutes before you. hackneyLass
  • I told my son that the only thing standing between him and going out by himself was crossing the road. He focused super-hard when he heard that. Every time he crossed by himself I praised him to high heaven. Daytoday
  • Mobile phones are brilliant but you may need to introduce the concept of stopping in one spot to text then returning the phone to a safe place. Walking and texting is not a good multi-tasking arrangement at any age. With my younger child, to put the point across, we regularly play a 'Spot the Idiot' game in the car. We look out for people who are not being vigilant and just being careless with their mobiles. Joshpoodlehamster


Teenagers and road safety

It's useful to set out the road casualty facts for your teen to help them understand that you're not just fussing or infantilising them.

  • On average, 1,600 children between the ages of 12 and 15 are killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads each year, (compared to 400 0 to 4 year olds and 450 5 to 7 year olds).
  • Boys are more at risk than girls: more are killed or seriously injured when walking, and six times as many on bikes.
  • During term-time, casualties peak between 8-9am and 3pm into early evening, clearly bookending the school day.

There are a few key messages you can try to drum into your teen:

  • Don't use your mobile to talk or text while crossing
  • Give the road your full attention while you're crossing, even with a group of friends
  • Look out for your friends' safety, too
  • Turn off your music while you're crossing the road
  • Don't take any chances when you're crossing - cars may not be able to stop in time
  • Pedestrian crossings aren't just for young children, they keep everybody safe

There are lots of road safety advice for teens on the Think! website and an animated quiz and game in its Tales of the Road section. 

What Mumsnetters say about teenage road sense

  • I'm sure there was some research about teens being really dangerous around traffic - their brains are wired differently for a period of time, and they are often in a gaggle messing around, playing on phones, plugged into headphones etc. DeafLeopard

Image: Shutterstock

Last updated: about 2 months ago