The wicked fear that was instilled in me from that young age affected me for many years. This can be avoided by approaching topics of safety (road and fire safety, stranger danger, etc.) in a calm and matter of fact way during the course of our daily activities.
Whether you live in a residential neighborhood or in the country, it is a good idea to walk around town with your child periodically so that s/he has an opportunity to experience first hand the importance of “rules for the road”.
Here are some of the points to be made in your day to day travels:
Teach your child to “Stop, Look, and Listen, before you cross the street. Use your eyes, use your ears, and then use your feet.” Repeat this rhyme every time you cross the street so that it becomes automatic.
Discuss the importance of crossing with an adult who loves him/her, because drivers don’t always see little people on the road.
Talk about the dangers of chasing balls, pets, other kids into the road.
Explain the reasons for cross walks and traffic lights. When you are at a traffic light, be sure to obey the “don’t walk” light whether or not there is any traffic, for you are setting an example, and young children don’t have the experience to determine whether there is enough time to cross before the car down the street reaches the crosswalk.
Demonstrate looking over your shoulder to see if a car is coming from behind at the intersection.
Tell your child that running across the street is never a good idea because s/he may trip in front of on-coming traffic.
Talk about the risk involved in darting into a parking lot or between vehicles: “Drivers are not expecting little children to appear from between parked cars and you might get hit.”
As children become a little older they may run ahead of you on the side walk. Set a limit as to how far ahead they can go (e.g., to the next driveway, or the corner, or the second tree). Get them into the habit of stopping at each driveway to check for traffic.
If the kids are riding bikes, they need to be wearing helmets (it’s the law!); and to stay on the sidewalk, always checking driveways. Be sure to remind them that sidewalks are for walkers first, and that they need to stop and wait for someone on foot to pass.
These are all things that we take for granted, but it seems that there is a whole generation of kids that were never taught road etiquette. How often do we hear the squeal of brakes; or curse under our breath at the kids walking, riding, skating down the middle of the road as if they own it; or stepping out into oncoming traffic assuming that the driver will stop for them. Little do they know whether this is a student driver lacking experience behind the wheel, or an elderly person whose sight and reflexes aren’t what they used to be. It may be someone distracted by their sound system or telephone, or driving while intoxicated.
We often forget that something which becomes so second nature to us as adults, must be taught with care, and learned by example. And that a refresher “course” may be in order as the children grow older.
RDW. 2003; revised 2010