How to stay safe when walking to school

How to stay safe when walking to school

My house is a 10-minute walk from my kids' school, but I'm not sure I'm ready to let them walk to school alone.

I see other kids walking to school all by themselves. They look little to me, but I guess they are more mature or responsible than I believe my kids are. Maybe their parents taught them the safety rules or have no choice but to let their elementary-aged kids walk to school alone.

But new research has given me cause to hang onto my kids' hands for a few more years.

A study out of the University of Iowa showed that children under age six lack the perceptual and motor skills to cross a busy road safely. Using a simulation exercise, the researchers found that younger children had trouble crossing the road safely, with six-year-olds hit by virtual cars eight percent of the time. The accident rate decreased among progressively older kids until there were no accidents among 14-year-old study participants.

These results were significant considering the statistics. In 2014, the National Centre for Statistics and Analysis reported 8,000 injuries and 207 motor vehicle deaths among pedestrians age 14 and younger.

It's every parent's worst nightmare: you send your kids to school in the morning and they never come home. I get chills thinking about it. I couldn't fathom it.

So what can parents do, besides walk your kids to school every day until they are mid-way through high school?

  • Teach your kids the rules of the road.
  • Walk with them and teach explain how to cross safely. Tell them to always look for cars, to pay attention to the walk/don't walk signs.
  • Make sure they take side streets and avoid busy intersections if possible.
  • If it's not possible, speak to your school about getting a crossing guard if there isn't one in place already.
  • Some neighbourhoods have lawn signs that remind drivers to pay attention to pedestrians. If you don't have one, put one on your lawn and go door-to-door to get your neighbours' support.

I walk with my kids and talk to them about how to stay safe as we go. When they are a bit older, I might bike behind them, giving them a little independence, to test their skills. The first time they walk alone, I will probably call the school to make sure they arrived safely.

Letting go is hard for parents, but hopefully by the time my kids are ready to walk to school alone, I'll be ready to let them.

Do you let your kids walk alone to school? How old were they when they walked alone for the first time? Do you have a crossing guard in your neighbourhood to help kids get to school safely? I invite you to weigh in.


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