Your children’s health and safety are of utmost concern to you. As they get older, they go off to school and play, and you can’t always be there to protect them. Naturally, you worry about them getting hurt. The best way to ease your worries and increase your children’s safety is to teach them to be cautious and safe pedestrians.

One of the biggest safety threats to children is moving vehicles. In 2007, about 14,000 children under 14 were injured (with just over 300 killed) in pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions. The majority of these crashes are due to unsafe crossing behavior by pedestrians. Teaching your children about pedestrian safety at a young age can help to decrease their risk of being involved in crashes as a pedestrian.

Elementary School Children at Greatest Risk

Elementary age children are at greatest risk for vehicle-pedestrian crashes because of their limited developmental skills. Children in this age group:

  • Have a field of vision that is 1/3 narrower than an adult’s
  • Are unable to determine the direction of sounds
  • Cannot accurately judge the speed or distance of moving vehicles
  • Lack the ability to understand how much time and distance is needed for a vehicle to stop
  • Overestimate their abilities
  • Are easily distracted, tending to focus on one thing at a time, like a ball or a friend
  • Are easily hidden by bushes, parked cars, etc
  • Often imitate inappropriate behavior

What can you do to protect your child against injury or death resulting from a pedestrian accident? Here are some guidelines to help.

General Safety Tips

  • Never allow children under age 10 to cross streets alone. Parental or adult supervision is essential until the child develops traffic skills and appropriate judgment.
  • Hold young children’s hands when you are near traffic.
  • Make sure that children get in and out of the car on the curb side.
  • Require children to wear reflective materials and carry a flashlight at dawn and dusk.
  • Do not allow children to play in the following places:
    • Driveways
    • Adjacent, unfenced yards
    • Streets
    • Parking lots

Teach Your Child Traffic Skills

  • First, set boundaries for your small children. Show them where they can play safely and the limits beyond which they cannot go. Enforce your rules.
  • As your children grow older, teach them basic rules for crossing the street safely. One of the best ways to do this is to walk with them, demonstrating and explaining the correct way to walk as you go along.
  • Teach children to walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic. If sidewalks are not available, they should walks as far to the left as possible
  • Set a good example every time you cross the street with them. Children imitate what they see adults and teenagers do. If you walk out between parked cars, jaywalk, or cross against the light, your children will likely do the same.
  • Teach your children to stop at the edge of the street and look left-right-left again and listen for vehicles before crossing. Ask children what they see and hear. You need to determine that they know what they are looking for and not just turning their heads.
  • Children should be taught to cross the street at least 10 feet in front of a school bus. They should wait for adults on the same side of the street as the school bus loading/unloading zone.


  • Intersections are more complex. Teach children to look over their shoulders for vehicles that may be turning as they are looking left-right-left.
  • Tell children that even if there is a stop sign or a signal light, drivers do not always obey the rules.
  • Teach children to wait until the vehicle stops before venturing out into the street.
  • Instruct children that when the light turns green, they should look for turning vehicles before stepping out into the street or crosswalk. Even if they can see a driver, it doesn’t mean that the driver has noticed them.