Reducing the Threat of Colorado Pedestrian Accidents Involving Children
The daily adventure of walking or bicycling to school can be an enriching and healthy exercise for children, but with it comes serious, random dangers. To make the experience a safe one, parents and their children should learn some safety tips.
The Danger Is Real for Walkers and Bikers
Even though Colorado is generally more adapted to pedestrian and bicycle traffic than some other states, the threat of pedestrian accidents persists. In 2018 at least 21 bicyclists were killed in accidents here, up from 16 the previous year, according to tallies collected by the Colorado Department of Transportation. About 90 pedestrians have died on Colorado streets roads and highways in each the past two years. They represent more than one-sixth of all of the state’s traffic fatalities. (Public statistics don’t include information on the ages of these victims.)
Still a Good Exercise Opportunity for Children and Parents
According to Dr. Phyllis Agran ofHealthyChildren.Org, kids can use the exercise, about 60 minutes every day. However, she recommends that children not begin taking the daily trek to school until they reach fifth grade, or about 10 years old, allowing them enough time to understand the potential dangers.
Instead, parents with enough flexibility can walk their children to and from school to make them familiar with their neighborhood and teach them. On the way, parents can show them the meaning of traffic signs and street markers, give them a general sense of direction and show them just how pedestrians should behave when crossing streets. If this is not possible, Dr. Agran suggests even teaming up with other families to walk the kids to school as a group. Parents may even take turns leading the pack.
Some Rules of the Road to School
What may seem like common sense to adults needs to be explained to most young children. The key to instilling proper safety procedures into young children is to teach by example and explain your actions. Dr. Agran says to hold your child’s hand when crossing the street and pay attention to traffic safety rules and traffic signals. If there’s a school crossing guard, take advantage of being escorted across the street.
The cardinal rule of walking in a city is to look both ways before crossing a street and stay on the lookout for vehicles entering the roadway. Children should also be reminded that drivers may not be able to spot them due to their small size.
At some point, kids will start making the trip without parental escorts, but that decision must depend on the child’s maturity and development. Some may not have the ability to focus on safety until they reach 10 years. Some may mature sooner and be fully aware of the consequences of not obeying traffic laws. Still, it’s best that they make the trip with at least one other child or an older sibling.
When they do go solo, be sure they’re sticking to the safest route to school, one with the crossing guards present. Practice the safe way to cross a street. Be sure to reinforce the “stranger danger” rules, particularly to avoid strangers who might offer them a ride to school.
More importantly than ever, kids need to know not to be distracted when walking, to avoid using cell phones or texting while on their way because it can make them oblivious to traffic or other obstacles.
Make your children easier for drivers to notice and to avoid by picking brightly colored and reflective backpacks, jackets, and other accessories, especially important on overcast days or in early evenings.
Graduating From Walking to Biking
Only when your children have mastered safely walking to school should you consider letting them ride their bikes, skateboards, or scooters there. Bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles have to follow the same rules that govern cars and motorcycles. That means obeying traffic signals and riding in the same direction as other traffic.
They must also stop at all intersections, even when it’s not required, to avoid oncoming traffic. And it’s essential that all bicyclists wear an approved bike helmet. Parents should weigh all of these decisions against their knowledge of how heavy traffic can be in their areas.