In the decade preceding this one, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport recorded as many as 66 child pedestrian deaths in the country (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Economics, “Child pedestrian safety: ‘driveway deaths’ and ‘low-speed vehicle run-overs,’ Australia, 2001-10”). Such tragic deaths were the result of collisions with four-wheeled vehicles, and a number of them took place near home.
These facts underscore that road safety should be taken seriously in Australia, especially among young children. In this case, the burden of instruction would fall mainly upon the parents. But that does not mean there’s no wiggle room to be uplifting, creative, and affirming in the endeavor of teaching children road safety—on the contrary, if you adopt such an approach with your kids, it will likely inspire obedient and proactive behavior among them.
Want to know how to incorporate better road safety into your family’s daily habits? Learn from the following tips—and don’t forget to pass on what you’ve learned to your kids!
- As a parent, prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario. Though no parent ever wants to encounter their children in a bad road accident, it would be even worse to find oneself in such a situation without being prepared at all. Train yourself to be emergency-ready, be it for your children or for other people’s, by storing emergency numbers where you can access them quickly (such as in your smartphone or tablet), stocking a portable emergency kit, and completing a first aid training module in Melbourne or in your locality.
- Make sure your young children are supervised every time they are out of the house. Very young kids from the ages of 0 to 10 years old should be watched by an adult when they are away from home and chaperoned every time they are near the roadside. If they are not of the age where they can comprehend every road safety rule, ensure that they are in the company of someone who does. Assign a guardian from your family who can see your child to their daycare center, to the school, or to the playground. When it’s time to cross the street, encourage your child to stay near and hold hands with you.
- Learn the particular road rules that govern your locality. Each community in Australia is built unique, and as such, rules on the flow of traffic, the location of bike lanes, and the like may differ from county to county. It is your duty to learn your local laws and abide by them at all times. And, whatever you learn about your home community’s ordinances, you can pass to your children in simple and straightforward language.
- Teach your kids the “Stop, Look, Listen, and Think” principle. There is a helpful road safety routine your kids can learn that is based on their sensory assessments. The four steps are:
- Stop: this is when your child can take one step back from their original position and survey what’s going on around them;
- Look: this is when your child can glance to the left, to the right, behind them, and straight ahead to perceive the direction of traffic;
- Listen: this is when your child can identify unique sounds from cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and other pedestrians, as well as learn important sound-related cues (such as when drivers rev their engines), and;
- Think: this is when the child can decide, with you, to cross the road safely.
You can rehearse these steps at home and repeat them as needed when you and your child are by the roadside.
- Help your kids visualize what road safety means. Even children who cannot read just yet can be queued in about the symbols on common road signage, the meaning behind differently colored traffic lights, and the patterns on the street that are designated for pedestrian and vehicle movement. You can make learning these cues easier and more fun by relating them to familiar images; for example, whenever you and your child are about to cross from one side to another, tell them that you are going to walk across the “zebra line.”
- Praise and affirm them for keeping up good road safety practices. Positive reinforcement will go a long way in keeping your child’s memory sharp, their senses alert, and their empathy attuned to the people around them. Recognize them when they are able to complete important tasks on their own, such as securing their seat belts; tell them they are doing a great job when they verbalize road safety rules and abide by them.
Children love to learn about the world around them, and are naturally innocent and caring about others. You can appeal to these senses when you teach them these principles—ultimately giving them quite the role to play in the community’s safety and security. ᐧ