Childrens' Traffic Safety Resources
Children are among the most vulnerable traffic participants. Our youngest ones are typically impulsive, are not yet able to judge speed and distance of an oncoming vehicle. Further, their size gives them a disadvantage as well. It is most important that parents take the time to teach them how walk and bike safely.
- Teaching Kids Vehicle Safety
- Teaching Kids Safe Walking
- Teaching Kids Safe Biking
- Available Resources
Every time you walk or drive somewhere, you have a teaching opportunity that will help form habits. Here are a few tips for modeling safe habits in the car:
1. Make everybody buckle up in the vehicle, every time, all the time.
2. Do not handle your phone while driving - your future teenage driver is watching you! Plus, you know very well how dangerous cell phone distraction is. Modeling restraint is hard, but restraint one of the best life-saving skills that you can pass on to your kids.
3. Play games while commuting: Passengers get points for spotting motorcycles, pedestrians, bicyclists (with or without helmet?), police cars and so on. This teaches our future drivers to be observant.
Every time you walk or drive somewhere, you have a teaching opportunity that will help form habits. Here are a few tips for safe walking:
1. When walking, always cross at crosswalks or intersections. Stop at the curb and demonstrate looking in all directions and point if you see any cars and where. If you see an oncoming car, either point out that “it is very far away and we are safe to walk across”, or, if the car is close enough that you would have to rush, say “the car is getting close, it’s better to wait”. This helps kids learn judge distances and speeds. Always hold their hands.
2. When walking along the sidewalk, point out driveways and check for backing cars or entering cars from the street.
3. Obey the pedestrian signal and explain how it works.
4. Wear reflective and bright colored clothing when walking and biking.
5. Talk about drivers that wave your forward to cross. Be sure to point out that the driver is being nice, but that the wave does NOT mean it’s safe. Make eye contract with stopped driver and demonstrate looking for other vehicles that may not stop.
Teach the "Edge" concept from early on:
Teach children to identify lines or "edges" which indicate potential danger: Where the sidewalk crosses a driveway, where the sidewalk ends and the street starts (often curbed), or “visual edges” where vehicles on the street block sight.
Point out those "edges" and explain they require to "look!". For example, the child walks along the sidewalk and walks up to a driveway (which forms a perpendicular line with the sidewalk), the child should be prompted to look for cars.
When crossing a street, the child and adult should stop and look at the first edge (where the sidewalk ends and the street starts). Then, if parked cars are nearby and blocking the view, a new edge is formed. The pedestrians should walk to the edge of the car, stop and look for traffic again. Demonstrate this in exaggeration by leaning ways forward from behind the car to peak out for traffic. If a driver stops to allow the child to cross, the child should stop at the far edge of the waiting car and look again for more vehicles in either direction...and so on, till the child has crossed all lanes of traffic.
The "Edge" concept remains extremely valuable later in life, when crossing a multi-lane street as an adult.
Teaching Kids Safe Biking
Public Works recommends that sidewalks are used for biking - by children and by all adults that do not feel comfortable riding in the road. City Code only bans bikes on sidewalks in the downtown and Commercial Street districts. You are allowed to ride on the sidewalk everywhere else - however, you are required to yield to pedestrians and not exceed a reasonable speed. Further, you are supposed to dismount the bike when crossing a street.
Young and old should always wear a helmet when riding a bike or any kind of wheels: Whether its skates, a scooter or other equipment. Make sure your child's helmet is properly adjusted and fitted. If a helmet is not fitted and adjusted property, it offers little to no protection. You can find a kid’s helmet work sheet here.
Make sure the brakes work and the bike has reflectors on it.
Verify that the child’s shoe laces are tied (or better wear shoes without laces).
Teach young bicycle riders to always stop and dismount when crossing a street, looking for traffic.
The City of Springfield has resources available that can be made available to groups and agencies that desire to teach pedestrian and bicycling safety. This includes lesson plans, coloring sheets, traffic and pedestrian signals.
The City of Springfield also has resources and staff available to help with helmet fittings also. Most of these resources are geared towards elementary schools, but we'd be glad to help with other age groups too. Please contract Mandy Buettgen-Quinn at (417) 864-1801 for more information.