Traffic Safety: The Importance Of Crosswalks
As parents, we try to keep our kids safe to the best of our abilities. However, there are times that we forget simple safety rules...or have gotten used to not following them because we are adults and have the experience to determine if it's safe or not. This can be dangerous for our children when they are young because they are more likely to follow our example than to do as we say. Going to and from school can be the most dangerous part of our, and our children's, day. I see this firsthand as a crossing guard for my daughter's school.
Most people either use or see at least one crosswalk every day but how close of attention do people pay to proper safety for them, especially around schools? From what I have noticed, not a lot. Here is a reminder on the rules.
Always use the crosswalk! Don't just cross in the middle of the street or other area that isn't marked as a crosswalk even if it's closer to where you are going or will take less time. This is especially important when you have kids. If they don't see you using the crosswalk, they are more likely to not use it either. Cars are less likely to be able to see them (and you) when the crosswalk is not used and this can cause severe, even fatal, accidents. Most accidents involving children being hit by cars are because the child didn't cross at a crosswalk and the majority of those accidents end up being fatal for the child.
If there is a crossing guard, wait until that crossing guard is in the middle of the crosswalk and had motioned and called to you that it's safe to cross. Waiting for that signal is very important! Just because the crossing guard is on their way out or in the middle of the crosswalk doesn't mean that people are going to actually stop for them, even though it's a state law. I have experienced this personally and it is scary. It has been an almost daily occurrence at the crosswalk I work to have drivers not paying attention...or maybe just not caring...that there is someone in the crosswalk holding a stop sign and wearing a bright reflective vest and they just drive right past. I have reported up to a dozen drivers in a week for not stopping like they are supposed to. One of them was a parent who was dropping their child off for school in the morning! If a driver isn't going to stop for an adult wearing reflective gear and holding a stop sign, they certainly won't stop for a small child or anyone else.
Walk when crossing the street, this includes cyclists. Not walking increases the chance of accidents, either for yourself or others. This is important to remind kids of, especially when they are with friends. You wouldn't want your child to end up being pushed or falling into traffic, or to have them responsible for that happening to someone else, would you?
Don't stop in the crosswalk. This is just as important for pedestrians as it is for drivers. It's not safe to stop in the middle of the street, you can always wait for someone on the other side if you need to. And drivers need to give pedestrians room to cross where they aren't walking out into traffic on the other side. Most crosswalks have lines marking where drivers are to stop at for the safety of those crossing the street. This can be an issue if people are parking in areas they aren't supposed to and blocking vision of the street, but that isn't a good enough excuse to put others in danger.
Don't use electronics (including phones) when crossing. When you are talking on the phone or using other electronics, you aren't paying attention to your surroundings and that can cause accidents. I had one parent walk past me into traffic before it was stopped because he was in a hurry and on his cell phone and he almost got hit. There was a mother with a small child half a block behind him. If he had gotten hit, that would have scarred that child for life; the mother and driver probably would have been too.
How important do you think traffic safety is?
When driving, especially in a school zone, slow down when you are coming to a crosswalk and pay extra attention to whether there are people there or not. I don't know of any state that doesn't give pedestrians the right of way, especially if they are in a crosswalk. Kids can be hard to see, and sometimes don't pay enough attention to traffic, so it is extra important for drivers slow down and be extra aware when in school zones and near other areas where kids are playing like parks. It takes less time to slow down and be careful that it does to deal with an accident. Unless it's a life and death emergency there is nothing in life so important that you can't observe proper traffic safety. And if it is a life and death situation you're most likely going to be in and ambulance and they will be the ones dealing with traffic safety, not you. Not to mention getting a ticket in a school zone is super expensive.
Did you learn “Stop, Look, and Listen” for traffic safety when you were a kid? Do you still use it?
Practice Makes Perfect
While it is important to talk to our kids about traffic safety, it's even more important to actually practice it with them. It won't matter to them what you say about it if they don't see you doing what you are telling them to do. Kids do what they see others, especially parents, doing more than they do what someone tells them to do. As a parent you are the biggest influence in your child's life. How would you feel if they were hurt or killed because they followed your example or you never took out the time to talk to them about and teach them proper safety? I don't think I would ever be able to forgive myself. I remember learning traffic safety long before I ever started school and once I had a child I made it a point to teach her the same when she could walk by herself. Even though she is old enough and responsible enough to do it on her own, I still ask her if it's safe to cross the street when we go on walks and we don't cross until she has told me whether it is or not.