You may not realize this, but the 5th leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5-19 is pedestrian-related accidents. Every week there are approximately five teen pedestrian deaths in the United States. Although teens make up around 25% of all children, they account for 50% of all pedestrian fatalities – largely due to being distracted or not paying attention while crossing the street or walking on the sidewalk. Pedestrian fatalities can also occur in school zones during pickup and drop off times. In 2014, over 40,000 children across the United States were injured as pedestrians. Although over the past 20 years the death rate for pedestrians under the age of 19 has decreased, there are still growing concerns of child pedestrian-related safety. Teens, for instance, have actually seen a 13% increase in pedestrian-related deaths over the past few years.
Knowledge of the dangers of not paying attention and how to follow traffic signals is imperative in the prevention of pedestrian accidents. It is never too early for a child to learn how to properly cross the street and what to look for in doing so. Teaching children early on about lights, signals, crosswalks, and to ALWAYS pay attention will have lasting impacts on their lives. From birth through the teenage years, children experience tremendous growth and change in cognitive development, and it is important to take advantage of that growth and educate them about pedestrian safety.
Consequences of Pedestrian Accidents
Being struck by a car or truck is a traumatic experience. When this happens, a child will immediately feel excruciating pain from striking the vehicle and/or hitting the pavement. Physical injuries can include broken bones and visible scarring. While certain physical injuries, like a broken arm, can heal over time, brain injuries can be permanent. A young child’s cognitive abilities may be impaired, and this could cause developmental issues that affect the child in the classroom and beyond. After being involved in such a distressing situation, counseling may be needed.
Pedestrian Safety Tips for Children and Parents
Nearly 80% of all child pedestrian deaths occur at non-intersection locations. This shows that many children may be ill-informed when it comes to pedestrian safety. Below are a few tips parents can use when talking to their children.
- If under the age of 10, always cross the street with an adult. Studies have proven that children 10 and under are unable to accurately judge the speed and distance of approaching cars and trucks.
- Always teach kids to look left and right prior to crossing the street and continuously as they cross.
- Always use crosswalks and light signals when crossing the street. Remember to teach your children what each signal means. Also remind them that just because they have a green light, it does not automatically mean that it is safe to cross.
- When walking along the street, always use sidewalks if possible.
- Put away all distractions. All too often, teenagers are seen crossing the road or walking alongside it while looking down at a cell phone, texting, or wearing headphones. These distractions can prevent them from paying attention to their surroundings. Teach kids early on to put their phone away when walking near moving vehicles.
- Never dart out into the road, especially from between two parked cars. Many pedestrian crashes occur due to the driver being unable to see the child before the accident.
- Lead by example. Children look up to older adults. If they see you looking down at your phone when you cross the street or if they see you cross the street against the light, then they are more likely to do the same.
It is never too late or too early to talk to your kids about pedestrian safety. Every step we take to ensure the safety of our children is a step in the right direction.