Walking to school with your kids is a great way to spend time outdoors and start the day with physical activity. However, your morning walk isn’t without dangers caused by drivers distracted by texting, tweeting, and answering phone calls. Though it’s important for drivers to stay alert, kids and their parents should be aware of their surroundings as well.
Walking to School — Safely
During the back-to-school season, children are at increased risk of injuries involving pedestrians, bicycles, and school buses. Many of these injuries may be prevented by following simple safety guidelines. Parents can help prevent pedestrian accidents, by teaching kids important safety rules for walking to and from school.
Tips for Safely Walking to School
Teach your child the following tips to ensure they have a safe walk to school:
- Walk with an adult until the child is at least 10 years old.
- Give your child a map of safe routes before they head out to school on their own.
- Instruct them to avoid using cell phones and wearing headphones while walking. Kids need to pay attention to their surroundings while walking to school.
- Dress children in light-colored or bright clothing to increase their visibility to drivers.
- Encourage children to walk in groups.
Understand that children will model the behavior you exhibit, so be mindful of pedestrian rules when walking with them to set a good example.
How to Help Kids Safely Cross The Street
As children grow older, they will need to learn how to cross streets safely on their own. Take the following steps to help children cross streets safely:
- Hold the child’s hand when crossing the street.
- Don’t jaywalk; always cross the street at a corner or at a crosswalk.
- Obey traffic signals and cross with a crossing guard if one is present.
- Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street. Continue looking both ways while crossing the street.
- Do not cross behind a bus or between parked cars where a driver cannot see you.
- Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
How to Evaluate The Safety of School Routes
On an annual basis, coalitions from Safe Kids Walk This Way create local task forces with the goal of improving safety along school routes. Examples of things these groups evaluate include:
- If the school entrance has a clearly marked curb
- If pedestrian safety lights and countdown timers are available where needed
- If crossing signs are in the right places
- If crosswalks are easy to see and if there are flashing lights to alert drivers
- If solar-powered flashing school zone and speed limit signs could help improve safety
- If speed boards or flexi posts would help discourage speeding through school zones
You can conduct a safety check yourself by taking a practice walk along your child’s route.
Teach Safety From a Young Age
It’s important to be intentional about safety when teaching kids how to walk to school. Educating them about safety from a young age will help reduce the risk of an accident.