Pedestrian injury facts

The facts

Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among children and youth in Canada.

While fewer Canadian child pedestrians are hurt or killed these days, each death remains a tragedy – most often a preventable one. Injuries to child pedestrians are often severe. They may be left with long-term disabilities, emotional strain and financial burdens that can last a lifetime.

To cross a street safely by themselves, children need three important skills:

Group standing beside a speed bump

  • Able to determine and use a safe crossing route
  • Able to properly assess a vehicle's speed
  • Able to judge safe gaps in traffic

To help decide when your child is ready to cross by themselves, parents are encouraged to think about the streets that the child will be crossing (e.g., on the way to school), and assess these skills. Children who have not yet reached this stage still need to walk with an adult.

Did you know?

  • Young children are at risk of pedestrian injuries because they have not yet developed the cognitive and physical skills to cope with the many challenges of traffic.
  • Having parents or caregivers present can help reduce the risk of injury.
  • Children aged 10 to 14 years have the highest incidence of pedestrian-related injuries. Children aged five to 14 years are at the greatest risk for pedestrian-related deaths.
  • Most 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.
  • Child pedestrians are most often hurt in the months of September and October, followed by May and June.
  • Children are more likely to be struck by a car in areas with heavy traffic, lots of parked cars and few play areas, such as parks. 
  • While boys have higher rates of pedestrian injuries and deaths, girls seem to be catching up.

New research

Early research with 10- and 11-year-old children finds that talking on a cellphone while crossing a street increases by up to one third a child's risk of being struck by a vehicle . Researchers at the University of Alabama advise parents to teach their children not to use their cellphones while crossing streets, but to give their full attention to what's going on around them. The distraction of talking on a cellphone, and its negative impact on a child's crossing decisions, leads researchers to speculate on the possible effect other devices might have, such as mp3 players or texting. They suggest that more research in this area is needed.

What's speed got to do with it?

  • Slower vehicle speeds cut the risk of pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
  • Having more pedestrians on the roads makes drivers more aware of them and leads to lower speeds.
  • Trees affect speed: drivers slow down on tree-lined streets.

Download Pedestrian Safety - the facts.