Knowing how to be safe on the roads is something we’re brought up with, although when I was a child, it was all about tv safety campaigns, the green cross code and cycling proficiency (although we missed out at our school). It feels like there’s a lot less education around outside of parental guidance, especially when there’s so many more campaigns that the government targeting children and parents.
Our school does the modern equivalent of cycling proficiency when children are in year 5 and 6, so N will do that in a few years. But until then it’s very much reliant on what we’re teaching him. I think we’re quite lucky with him in that he’s never been the type of child (even as a toddler) to run ahead and out on the road. But however sensible the child, there can still be danger points when he gets over-excited or over shoots the end of the pavement on a scooter.
I’m always horrified by some of the careless people you seen on pavements, walking across roads, or pushing pushchairs ahead of them overhanging into the road when crossing in the middle of the road island. As for drivers, there’s some terrible ones who don’t appear to even look around them. So I really want to make sure that N is always aware when he’s out walking. Especially when he’ll be getting to the age when he’ll be wanting to head down the road on his bike or walking to see his friend or cousin.
I’ve been trying to drum safety on the roads and around vehicles into him since he was a toddler. You can never start too early, so it becomes habit rather than something they have to think so much about.
Tips on teaching children road safety
1, Start young
We used reins for a while when N was a toddler, so he had some freedom but we knew he couldn’t run off in busy places or near roads. But he was usually good at holding hands to cross the roads (and will still do so age 7 when it’s a busy road). At toddler age it’s about teaching them there’s a time and a place to be in control and listen, and learn that they can’t just run amok all the time.
We’re on the farm, so have farm vehicles in the yard, so at home N had to learn that he wasn’t allowed in the yard without an adult, and that he had to listen and obey when someone called out stop. We also have lots of cars coming in and out of the drive, some of whom won’t know to watch out for children (and dogs), so we had to teach what N is and isn’t allowed to do, and to always watch out and listen for vehicles.
His dad says he can only run round to the farm on the lawn, I know and trust that he will be careful going across the side of the drive. N knows what is expected from each of us.First rule of teaching road and car safety for children - Stop means stop Click To Tweet
2, Be consistent
I have to admit we’re not always consistent because I’m with N more frequently so I know exactly what he is like around roads and vehicles off the farm. The OH is more wary because of the farm vehicles.
But over the years I’ve always repeated the same do’s and don’ts, and used the same phrases so it makes sense and he gets the safety points repeated until they sink in.
3, Talk about road safety
We talk about safety and roads all the time we’re on one. It doesn’t matter if we’re walking, scooting, cycling or in the car, there’s always a question or comment from N that will spark a safety discussion. In the car, I’m a driver who comments a lot, so I now have a back street drive who comments on people stopping in yellow boxes, non-indicators, and various other annoying habits of bad drivers.
We talk the same when outside the car. About cycling safety, watching and listening, focusing on what’s around as well as the direction of travel (especially on a bike), and not doing anything surprising. So on a bike, keeping going rather than stopping suddenly if there’s a car coming up behind.
Once I know N can repeat these things back to me, and that he can show he’s taken them in, then we’ll be able to think about letting him bike to his cousin’s house down the road, maybe when he’s 8.
4, Think about all occasions
Being safe on the roads isn’t just about being a pedestrian. Children will scoot and cycle. They might not drive for years, but they’ll be a lot safer on the roads later on, if they’re aware of other drivers around them. Because so much of road safety is looking out for the unexpected and knowing how to deal with it. So teaching them awareness of what’s around them, what drivers do and other vehicles that are on the roads, will help in the long run.
5, Trust them
You might never want to set them loose without you near a road, but taking them out regularly on bikes will get the safety habit engrained well before they’re expecting to go out alone. In an ideal world we’d cycle in a child sandwich habit with a parent in front and behind. But there’re usually just me, so I go behind where I can keep an eye on him and shout out ‘orders’, telling him what to do. He’s been cycling on the roads since he was 4 1/2 years old, so he knows the basics.
We’re working up to him being confident enough to be able to look behind so knowing when he can make the turn at junctions, and to just keep going rather than stopping when there’s a car coming up behind. At the moment it’s not easy because I can’t ride my bike because of a bad knee so I’m walking on the right side of the road while he cycles on the left. Not ideal, but N is now used to cycling without another cyclist.
But at some point you need to make the call when they’re responsible enough to go somewhere on their own
If you want more reading and tips, here’s some other resources:
How do you teach your children about road safety? What age were they allowed out alone?