October when the clock rolls forward, dusk makes an early arrival. But that doesn’t stop kids from enjoying the fall season with their neighborhood pals. The early evening is a dangerous time for children who roam around their driveways or in the street. In fact, pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 5 to 14. In 1997, nearly 830 children ages 14 and under died from pedestrian injuries. And an estimated 20,000 children ages 14 and under were injured in pedestrian motor vehicle-related incidents in 1998.
“Parents must make sure kids know and obey the rules of the road for pedestrian safety when traveling to a neighbor’s house after school,” says Heather Paul, Ph.D., executive director of the National Safe Kids Campaign. Additionally, the Campaign recommends that children under 10 never cross the street alone. Make sure you follow these additional safety guidelines:
· Teach children to recognize and obey all traffic signals and markings. A flashing “walk” sign is not an automatic “go” signal. It means a pedestrian has permission to cross, but must first stop and look both ways for cars.
· Make sure children look in all directions before crossing the street. Teach them to stop at the curb or edge of the road, and to look left, right and left again before crossing.
· Teach children not to enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs. Darting into the street accounts for the majority of child pedestrian fatalities.
· Teach children to cross the street at a corner or crosswalk. Make sure children allow plenty of time to cross. Teach them to walk, not run, across intersections. Tell children to listen to adult crossing guards.
· Warn children to be extra alert in bad weather. Visibility might be poor and motorists might not be able to see them or stop quickly.
· Demonstrate proper pedestrian safety by being a good role model. Parents, caregivers and older peers should set good examples for younger children. Children need you to not only tell them, but also show them how to be safe pedestrians.
· Make sure children know the safest route to their destination. Look for the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. Walk the route with children until they demonstrate traffic safety awareness. They should take the same route every time and avoid shortcuts.
· Children should always wear retro-reflective materials and carry a flashlight if walking at dawn and dusk. Nearly half of child pedestrian deaths occur between 4 and 8 p.m.