Pedestrian safety tips

Teaching pedestrian safety to children

Walk and talk with your children about pedestrian safety. Your presence and guidance can help reduce the risk of injury.

Begin with your toddler and gradually teach them about safety, beginning with simple information. Many young children are fascinated by cars and trucks. A two year old riding in a stroller can understand that cars belong on the road and people belong on the sidewalk. A three or four year old can be taught that they must always hold your hand when crossing the street. They can help you look both ways to watch for cars and can learn that it is not safe to run out into the road, even after a favourite toy.

Build on earlier conversations with information appropriate to your child's level of understanding. Discussions can come naturally, as there are many opportunities and circumstances that invite a brief comment or teaching moment

  • When weather conditions change (e.g. snow, fog, rain)
  • When a ball goes over the fence and onto the road
  • When witnessing jaywalking or other unsafe pedestrian practice
  • When taking, or deciding on, a new route to school or the playground
  • When visiting a new place
  • When moving to a new neighbourhood
  • When it's a child's first time walking with friends
  • When a child is preparing to walk alone for the first time

Talk about what you do before you cross a road. Teach your child to use their eyes and their ears. Always, think, look and listen. They should do this even if there is a crossing guard, or traffic signals, to assist them.

Teach them to stop at the curb, look left, right and left again, and to listen for oncoming traffic. When the way is clear, or all the cars at the crosswalk or intersection have come to a full stop, teach children to cross the road, and not to double back or run. Children should be cautioned not to cross between parked cars, or in the middle of a street, but at a corner. In addition, they should treat driveways and alleyways as "mini roads" and watch for moving cars. If there are no sidewalks, children should walk in a single file, away from the road, facing traffic. After a while, these behaviours will become second nature to your child.

When not to walk and talk

If your child has a cell phone, or other hand-held electronics, make it a rule that they do not use them while they are walking, and especially not while they are crossing streets. Distractions put children at a much higher risk of being struck by a vehicle. Even walking with a group of children can distract a child from crossing safely, so tell your child to keep this in mind. It's great to walk with your friends, but don't forget the safety rules.

Be a role model

Be a role model by walking and talking to your children about safe pedestrian practices. Over time, your frequent demonstrations will become ingrained in their approach to crossing roads. But remember, if you jaywalk, or run across a street against a light with your child, or talk on your cell phone while walking, you can expect them to do the same thing when they are crossing the street independently.

Ask others who are responsible for your child's welfare (grandparents, daycare staff) to discuss safe crossing when they accompany your child on outings.

Three important skills for a child to walk without supervision

Children need to acquire three important skills before they can walk on their own. They should be able to:

  1. Decide on and use a safe crossing route
  2. Realistically assess a vehicle's speed
  3. Judge safe gaps in traffic.

Supervise children who have not yet mastered these skills.

Walking is good for you

Many Canadian communities are taking an interest in promoting walking, both for its health benefits and as a "green" initiative. In some communities, this has led to a renewed family enthusiasm for walking to school. It is vital to encourage parents and caregivers to talk to children about pedestrian safety during these walks. It is equally important to create more walkable communities that promote safe, pedestrian-friendly environments. Increased pedestrian numbers actually heighten driver awareness, which can result in slower rates of speed and fewer child pedestrian injuries.

Download Pedestrian tip sheet for Parents and Caregivers.