Children between the age of 2 and 6 years represent just over six percent of the total population, but are involved in up to 25 percent of all pedestrian mishaps. Nearly one-third of the 5 to 9-year-old children killed by motor vehicles are pedestrians. Children enjoy playing outside, but they lack the judgment skills to cope with traffic. Young children are adventurous and may act impulsively, often expecting that adults, including motorists, will be watching out for them. A few facts that should help adults understand why children are so vulnerable may seem obvious. Physically, children are shorter, giving them a totally different perspective of the road. Preschoolers also have less defined side vision – and focusing requires more time than is generally true of adults. They also do not localize sounds as easily as adults. They still do not have concepts of what is safe, dangerous or illegal. Children don’t have the skills to handle these risky situations until around the age of 10 years. They typically give most of their attention to play, family or friends and it is unlikely that they will think about or respond to traffic at the same time unless properly guided. 

For parents and caregivers, some tips for outside safety include:

•Supervision! Toddlers and preschoolers must be watched constantly and in close proximity to the supervising adult.

•Find a safe place to play. Good choices include fenced yards, parks, playgrounds and schoolyards.

•Stay away from unsafe places. A driveway is not considered safe unless it can be blocked off to traffic and constant supervision is present. A backing vehicle can seriously hurt toddlers as it is almost impossible for a driver to see them and the same goes even for older children. The street is also not a safe place to play or learn to ride a bike. Riding a bike takes skill and children who are learning might not be able to get out of the way of oncoming traffic.

•Encourage safe bike riding. Require children to wear helmets, have bikes or tricycles that are the proper size and in good working order and supervise. Make sure to find a safe place to ride.

•Get children in the habit of crossing the street safely. For children under 10 years, this means holding a grown-up’s hand, crossing at an intersection and looking left, right, left and over your shoulder before and during crossing. Pedestrians should make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you. Many young children assume drivers will see them, but that is not always the case.

•Encourage children to never dart out for a lost ball, dog or school work caught in the wind.

•Set a good example. Young children learn by watching adults. Show them safe ways to cross by crossing safely yourself. Wear a helmet every time you ride and observe traffic rules. Be a great role model! Be Safer at Night All pedestrians and cyclists should take extra precautions when walking or riding after dark.

– Children should not play outside or on the street when it’s dusk or dark.

– Anyone who needs to be outside during dusk or darkness should wear bright or reflective clothing. Many children’s jackets, backpacks and sneakers come with reflective trim or piping. Reflective vests are sold in many sporting goods stores.

– Pedestrians should stay on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic, staying as close to the side of the road as possible.

– Pet owners should also use reflective collars and leashes to make pets visible to traffic.

– Cyclists are required by law to have and use working lights on their bicycles when it is dusk, dark or dawn. Use a white light on the front and a red light on the rear of the bike.

– Teen and adult cyclists should ride on the right side of the road, facing traffic, but stay as close to the side as circumstances allow. Be visible. Be aware.