Frequently Asked Questions
Why do kids lack good judgment about traffic?
Younger children usually don't have the ability to make safe judgments about traffic because they aren't developmentally ready to make good choices on their own. It is not their intelligence that is in question, say child development specialists, but rather their level of thinking and physical coordination. Children may not be able to judge whether a situation is safe or react appropriately in an emergency, especially when they are nervous or scared.
This is why proper supervision for children is so important. Younger children should be accompanied by adults or older children whenever they cross the street or ride their bikes. Even if you feel your child has the intelligence to do these activities alone, in reality they may not be developmentally ready to do so.
- Young children can't see out of the corner of their eyes as well as adults can. They aren't able to see objects in their peripheral field of vision.
- It is often difficult for children to determine the direction that various sounds are coming from (e.g. a siren). They may turn the wrong way searching for a sound.
- Children may think large cars move more quickly than small cars, or narrow streets are less dangerous than wider ones.
- Young children can't pull together all the pieces of information they need to act appropriately in an emergency situation. Even if they have been taught the rules of the road, their brains can't process multiple pieces of information or a complex chain of events.
- Children lack a sense of vulnerability. They don't understand a car can seriously hurt or kill them if they are struck.
- Children have trouble judging how fast a vehicle is coming towards them or just how far away a vehicle is.
- Children like to keep moving! As a result, they may have trouble waiting for stoplights to change or for cars to stop at crosswalks before they step out onto the road.
- Although children may have been taught how to cross the street safely, they can be easily distracted and may respond impulsively.
- Children may simply believe grown-ups will look out for them. They think that if they can see an adult driving a car toward them, the driver must be able to see them too.
- Children's small stature means that they may not see hazards and drivers may not see them.
When, where and why do kids get hurt as pedestrians?
When: Most child pedestrian-related injuries occur in September and October, followed by May and June. Crashes are most common during the late afternoon and early evening. This is probably because drivers are adjusting to decreased daylight and are less likely to see a pedestrian crossing the road. It may also be due to the fact that children are out and about at this time of the day, walking home from school or perhaps playing outside after dinner.
Where: Statistically, children are more likely to get struck by a car while crossing at an intersection followed by running into the road. Children are also vulnerable when they cross the road at uncontrolled intersections, when they enter the road between parked cars or walk on the road instead of the sidewalk.
The majority of child pedestrian injuries and deaths occur in urban areas, however, when a pedestrian is hit on a rural road, the result is more likely to be fatal because of higher vehicle speeds. Studies have also shown that lower income urban neighborhoods have a higher incidence of pedestrian-related injuries.
Why: Most often, crashes are caused by a combination of driver behaviour and pedestrian behaviour. However, factors such as heavy traffic volumes, a high density of parked cars, higher posted speed limits, and limited choices for play also contribute to the number of pedestrian injuries.
What are the top five road safety rules for my child?
Walk with your child and talk with them about pedestrian safety! These top five tips will help you show your child how to cross the street safely:
- Stop. Think, look and listen for vehicles. Check both ways before crossing the road.
- Cross only at intersections. Never cross in the middle of the street or between parked cars and never run onto the road.
- Recognize and follow the crossing signals. Even when the signal tells you it is safe to walk, make sure the street is clear and all cars have stopped before crossing.
- Watch out for cars coming out of driveways and alleys.
- Use streets with sidewalks. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic, away from the road if possible, and in single file.
Top five tips for parents
- Model safe behaviour. Practice the safe pedestrian habits that you want your child to copy.
- Start with your toddler and gradually teach them about safety as they grow. Use opportunities while walking to have conversations about safety. Avoid long-winded lectures that your child may not understand yet.
- Until your child reaches age nine, make sure he crosses the street with an adult or older responsible child. Continue to walk with your child and teach him how to cross the street safely, adjusting conversations to match your child's level of understanding.
- Have your child show you that they know how to cross the street safely. Ask them to point out the risks and tell you what they would do.
- Some children may not be ready until later. When your child is more independent, continue to create opportunities for regular discussions. Listening to your child will reveal how confident they are traveling independently and if they have any concerns.
What is “traffic calming”?
High speed is often a factor in crashes involving pedestrians. Speed affects how often pedestrians get hit and how severely they are injured. When cars are travelling at speeds greater than 30-40 km/h the response time of drivers and pedestrians is impacted. For example, drivers may miscalculate the time it takes to come to a stop, while pedestrians may miscalculate the time needed to safely cross the road. A pedestrian who is struck by a car travelling at 50 km/h has a greater chance of being killed than a pedestrian struck by a car travelling at 30 km/h. Reducing vehicle speed is proven to prevent crashes and reduce the severity of injuries.
Traffic calming is intended to reduce vehicle speeds, discourage traffic volume and/or minimize conflicts between street users. Traffic calming works to reduce injuries in a particular geographical area due to changes in the structure of the area.
Speed bumps on residential streets and reducing the posted speed limits are perhaps the most common example of traffic calming. Measures such as raised crosswalks and rumble strips create a physical barrier on the road, forcing cars to slow down. Other traffic calming measures include sidewalk extensions, curb extensions and traffic circles.
For further information on traffic calming and ways you can work to implement traffic calming measures in your community, please see Pedestrian Safety.
I want to make changes to my street - where do I start?
There are many different ways to advocate for change and you can find lots of ideas and information specific to pedestrian safety on the Public Policy section of the website.