Blog: A Safe Walk to School
Back to school frenzy is here and parents and caregivers are busy getting their kids back into school routines as they return to the classroom. Back to school means more kids on the road, particularly while the nice weather lasts but also when it’s rainy. Walking to school is a great way for kids to be active, and has many physical, mental and emotional health benefits. As a parent or caregiver, you can help keep your child active and safe by teaching them how to be a safe pedestrian.
- We encourage parents to teach and demonstrate pedestrian safety to their children from an early age – as soon as they begin walking with their children. It is very important that adults explain to children what is going on around them while they are walking and encourage them to learn to assess safety and risks.
- Young children like to imitate what you do. Parents and caregivers have a powerful role to play in modeling safe behaviours. By modeling safe pedestrian behaviours and explaining why these behaviours are important to children when they are young, you will help prepare your child to make safe decisions when they are older and gaining independence. If you jaywalk, run across the street against a light, or text or talk on your phone while crossing – you can expect them to do the same when they are older.
- We are often asked how old a child needs to be to walk to school alone. Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question. In order to be able to safely walk on their own, children need to acquire three important skills:
- Decide on and use a safe crossing route
- Realistically assess a vehicle’s speed
- Judge safe gaps in traffic
- As a general rule, we say that children under 9 should walk in a group with older kids or an adult. Use your judgment and you knowledge of your child’s abilities, and supervise children who have not mastered these skills.
- Whenever possible, encourage children to walk on streets with sidewalks. If this is not possible (may be the case particularly in rural areas), children should walk facing traffic in single file, as far away from the road as possible.
- Distractions are dangerous for children and youth when walking, and increase their risk of being hit by a vehicle. Teach children to put away cell phones and take off headphones before crossing the street and remember to wear bright clothing or have flashers on their backpacks.
- A reminder to drivers, back to school means more kids on the road – walking, cycling, scootering, and skateboarding. Be mindful of this, slow down, be alert and on the lookout for kids. Remember the reduced speed limit of 30 km/h in school zones.
For more information on these and other children’s injury prevention topics, and to download our wide range of educational resources, visit www.childsafetylink.ca or call us at 1-866-288-1388.
We wish you a fun, safe and healthy school year!