No matter how old your children are, it’s always a good idea to keep their knowledge fresh. Whether they’ve just started nursery or they’re in their last year of school, there’s always something about road safety you can teach your kids – even if you’re currently homeschooling your children.
As soon as they can walk
As soon as your little one can walk, they can run! This is the perfect time to instil good habits such as stopping at the kerb, waiting for the green man, checking for traffic even if the green man appears and holding your hand when walking near roads.
Primary school age
When children are of school age it’s time to teach them the whole routine for crossing the road safely so they can memorise it. Encourage them to always find a safe place to cross, such as a zebra crossing or the traffic lights, stop at the kerb, look left and right twice over, cross the road if it’s clear and never to run across the run.
They may also start to play outside with friends as they grow – so you’ll need to teach them where their boundaries are. Make sure they stay close to the house in an area where they don’t need to cross any roads.
Children are usually great at visualising, so it may be a good idea to discuss certain scenarios with them that they may face in everyday life. For example, “Your friend asks you to go to the park around the corner with her. You have to cross a busy road to get there. What do you do?” Let them know they should ask your permission first (depending on their age, as they may be too young to go to the park on their own!) and to always use a pedestrian crossing no matter what. Another example could be what to do if their ball goes into the road – tell them to always ask an adult to help.
Secondary school age
By the time your child starts secondary school they may have, before lockdown, already been making their own way every morning by foot, bike or public transport. This is the prime time to teach them about road safety, as they’ll need it on an everyday basis. Brake, the road safety charity, says: “The highest concentration of child fatalities (23%) occurred during school leaving hours (3pm-5pm)
If they want to cycle to school then make sure they take their Cycling Proficiency test before they start secondary school. Most primary schools will hold a training scheme for their year 6 children, but if not you can always book a family session with a local instructor – obviously when we are all out of lockdown.
Older teenagers will start to go out on their own a lot more, so naturally they’ll encounter the road a lot more often, whether they’re learning to drive or just out and about with friends (the latter, of course, not for the time being). They may even have a part-time job that they need to get to (especially if they’re a key worker!), so road safety is more important than ever at this stage.
You can start to talk about the consequences of dangerous driving, unsafely crossing the road and cycling on the road. It’s OK to mention road traffic collisions and the impact it has on their own lives and their family’s lives. For example, you can let them know a few stats such as one in five crashes are caused by new drivers or that five people die every day on Britain’s roads…and so many more are seriously injured. It may seem hard-hitting but that is the reality of road safety. Brake says “Whilst young people make up only 7% of licence holders, they represent over 20% of drivers killed or seriously injured in car crashes.”
Don’t be afraid to cover the heavier subjects such as sudden death and life-changing injuries, as well as how it impacts loved ones. It’s also a good idea to teach your teens about:
- Taking responsibility for themselves (and others if they’re driving)
- Alternatives to driving
- The consequences of drink drug driving
The idea isn’t to scare them from having their independence, but to make sure they’re equipped with the know-how when it comes to road safety as both a pedestrian and a driver/cyclist.
For more inspiration on teaching road safety to children and teenagers check out Brake’s educational information packs.