Remember when road safety came down to one simple, melodic mantra: “Look to the right, look to the left, look to the right again”? Today, road safety experts are now urging children to: “Stop, look, listen and think.” But if that seems way too tricky for your young child to grasp, don’t panic. Under the age of 5, nothing – not even a catchy mantra
– should replace active adult supervision.
“Under the age of 5, children are unpredictable and can’t judge traffic circumstances,” explains Vicki Milne, project officer at the Road Safety Unit of Kidsafe NSW.
Kidsafe recommends that children hold an adult’s hand up to the age of 8 and be supervised around traffic to the age of 10.
Here are some other ways to get the road-safety message across to your tot ... STEP 1: BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL
Before you dash across the road while the light is flickering, or even think about jaywalking, just remember: little eyes are always watching. “Children want to be like adults, so if adults role model the wrong safety messages, children pick those up very quickly,” says Vicki. “If you’re always crossing properly at the lights and pedestrian crossings, then it starts to become a habit with them as they get older, and when they go to school they will recognise where the safe places are to cross.” STEP 2: ESTABLISH RULES
Long before you step outdoors, your child needs to know what is expected of him. “Establish certain guidelines for when you’re out walking, like, ‘You must hold my hand,’ ‘You mustn’t run in the car park,’” Vicki suggests. If your hands aren’t free, teach your littlie to hold onto your arm or sleeve, the stroller or a trolley. Other rules might include no running across driveways, no riding until you get to the park, and your child needing to be in their seat before you unload shopping into the car. STEP 3: SMALL STEPS FIRST
Practise the rules as you walk around your house, driveway and neighbourhood. Your child needs lots of practice in familiar, less hectic environments. You might park around the block from preschool, then hold your tyke’s hand and talk as you walk – point out any moving vehicles, driveways, best places to cross and so forth. Also start to teach him the meaning of road signs, signals and words such as ‘stop’, ‘fast’, ‘slow’, ‘close’ and ‘far’. STEP 4: USE PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS WISELY
Kids should never run near or on pedestrian crossings, and you should always be making eye contact with the driver before you begin to cross. “There are times and circumstances when it can be difficult,” warns Vicki. “Drivers can’t always see small kids, especially if they dart out from behind a car. Sometimes they’re located just around a corner or if the sun’s setting it can be hard for drivers to see.” If in doubt, don’t walk. STEP 5: BEWARE DANGER ZONES
Wherever there are vehicles there is potential danger, so you need to actively supervise your child in all car parks, around preschools and schools, and when crossing driveways. “Driveways are basically small roads,” says Vicki, so you need to behave as if you are crossing one: stop, look, then hold hands while you cross.
And don’t forget that the most dangerous driveway of all is your own driveway. One child is hit or run over in their home driveway every week in Australia. Here’s how to avoid that:
* Never allow kids to play in the driveway.
* Block driveway access with a fence, security door or gate, and farewell visitors safely from inside. * Actively supervise kids whenever a vehicle is moved. Check to make sure there are no children in the driveway or around the car, and if there are, make sure they’re holding on to an adult’s hand. If you’re the only adult present, place all children securely in the car while you move it.
* Never rely solely on your vehicle’s rear-vision mirrors, as most have been found in vehicle testing to have large blind spots. * Make sure things such as shrubbery and garbage bins are cleared so your view is as unobstructed as possible.