Teaching young people about road safety

Teaching your child road safety skills is vital to help them stay safe as they become more independent. The risk of a child pedestrian being involved in a road accident rises significantly at the age when they start school and, up until the age of nine, most children cannot judge how fast vehicles are going or how far away they are.

Even when they're teenagers and are more aware on the roads, they are still in serious danger. Secondary school aged children are most at risk of being killed or seriously injured as pedestrians or cyclists.

Below are a number of guidelines on how to teach your child road safety skills as they grow up, from good in-car behaviour to staying safe on rollerblades.

Ages 1 to 4 - Holding their Hand

  • Start the learning process as early as possible by explaining what traffic is and how you should behave with it.
  • When you are out together, make sure your child walks on the side of the pavement furthest from the traffic and that they hold your hand, are on reins or in a buggy or pushchair.
  • Never allow your child to ride a bike on the road.
  • Always set a good example, your child will copy you.

Leading the Way

  • When you are out together, teach your child the basics of the Green Cross Code – stop, look, listen, think!
  • Practice on quiet roads near your home, first crossing together, then letting your child lead you across. Do not let them cross alone at this stage.
  • Always cross the road at the safest place and explain why you are crossing there.
  • Setting up a rota with other parents to take your children to school can be a good way of keeping your child safe whilst freeing up your time.

Ages 5 to 7 - The Green Cross Code

  • Now is the time to explain the Green Cross Code in full to your child. When you are sure they know and understand it, let them cross the quiet roads where you have been practicing, watching and testing before letting them do it alone.
  • Gradually start crossing busier roads together. For further information see the Road Safety and prevention team leaflet Surviving on Jungle Street which is available by calling 0300 1234 222.
  • As well as learning how to cross the road, also make sure your child is aware of the more general principles of good road behaviour.
  • Make sure your child can be seen easily by ensuring that they are wearing bright or fluorescent clothing during the day and reflective clothing at night, whenever they are out and about.
  • Use the principles set out in the 'Surviving on Jungle Street' leaflet to help your child learn good road safety skills, remember to use plenty of interaction and discussion with your child.
  • Spend just five minutes a day or take advantage every time you walk with your child to practice the steps laid out in the Jungle Street leaflet.

Ages 8 to 10 - Gaining Independence

  • It is important to get good road safety skills practiced at this age before they become independent pedestrians. Secondary school aged children are most vulnerable and are most at risk of being killed or seriously injured by traffic accidents.
  • It is important that you and your child take road safety seriously and keep talking to them about the dangers. You are preparing them with the life skills that they will need for the next stage in their independent development.
  • Make the school journey as safe as possible by discussing together any dangers along the route and start to guide them in planning the route they travel.
  • Ensure that whenever your child is out on the road they are constantly aware of what is happening around them and are not distracted by personal stereos, mobile phones or friends.

Ages 11 to 16 - Teenage pedestrians

Almost one in five (18%) teenagers reported having been in a road accident or 'near miss' on their way home from school, new research from the THINK! road safety campaign has revealed. The research revealed that the majority of teenagers admit to being distracted by talking to friends as they cross the road and 30% acknowledged that mobile phones preoccupied them and diverted their attention from watching out for traffic. A shockingly high 65% reported having prevented a friend from having an accident by pulling them back or calling out to them.

When teenagers are out and about with friends road safety isn't uppermost in their minds, but as traffic is the biggest single killer of secondary school aged children, therefore it is important they learn to be more mindful of traffic and aware of the potentially disastrous consequences that can happen to those who fail to give the road their full attention.

Pedestrian casualties for under 16's peak at about age 12, so it is vital that parents continue to talk to their children about road safety and educate them on how to stay safe on the roads. Parents can help to reinforce road safety messages by:

  • Keep talking about the dangers of traffic.
  • Point out people who are endangering themselves.
  • Stress the need to concentrate and be careful at all times: almost one in ten teenagers who have been involved in accidents say they were not looking or paying attention.
  • Warn of the dangers of distractions. Using IPods, making mobile phone calls and texting while walking are big distractions.
  • Get your teenager to practice judging the speed and distance of approaching vehicles on busy roads and identify safe gaps.
  • Stress that they should never lose concentration and follow others blindly into dangerous situations.

For more information or advice on teaching road safety, contact the Road Safety and prevention team on 0300 1234 222 or email roadsafety@cornwall.gov.uk 

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