As traffic starts to build up again now lockdown is easing, how do we adjust and make sure children are safe around roads?
Our children have seen people stepping off pavements in order to social distance. Cars have been making the most of empty streets and going at speeds never seen before lockdown. We’re avoiding buses and trains as much as possible. And families are out on bikes – perhaps for the first time in years. For many of us, roads do not feel like they used to.
The simple answer to all this change and strangeness is to go back to the reassuring basics.
There is simple advice that families can follow, so everyone stays safe and parents are clear about what to teach their children when out and about.
Remember, children often struggle to judge speed and distance until they are at least ten.
- Show young children you’re serious about them holding your hand near the road. Toddlers may try to fight it but it’s a good time to stay firm, especially with unpredictable traffic and distancing distractions.
- Ask your child what they would do to cross safely. Would they even stop at the kerb first to check for traffic?
- Talk to them about the importance of looking in all directions for traffic – not just left and right – as traffic can come from around corners, from driveways or from behind. Get them to show you where they need to look.
- Children learn by copying what you do. Now more than ever, it’s helpful to set a good example before you step off the pavement.
- For older children remind them of the importance of staying safe and how easily they can be distracted by phones, music players and even their friends!
- The simplest way to protect children (and yourself) is to wear a helmet every time, even if it’s a quick cycle around the block or down to the park.
- Try and use off-road cycle paths where possible and make sure that you are giving people walking as well as other cyclists plenty of space as you approach.
- Make sure your bike has a bell, reflectors and lights.
It’s mind boggling the difference speed makes to a child’s chances of survival if hit by a car. 20 mph means most children will survive, just 20 mph more and nearly all of them will die.
- It is so worth slowing down in built-up areas or where you seeing children playing – it only takes a moment to take a life.
- Avoid the temptation of looking at your phone when driving – if you get into the habit of keeping it out of reach, it makes that easier.
You must make sure that any children in the vehicle you’re driving are:
- in the correct car seat for their height or weight until they reach 135 centimetres tall or their 12th birthday, whichever is first.
- wearing a seat belt if they’re 12 or 13 years old, or younger and over 135cm tall.
You can be fined up to £500 if a child under 14 isn’t in the correct car seat or wearing a seat belt while you’re driving.
Car seat checking events regularly find that approximately 70% of seats aren’t fitted correctly.
Whilst some of these faults are minor almost a third of seats checked have major errors in the way they are fitted meaning they are either damaged, fitted to a car in a way that was dangerous or incompatible to the child or car. It is also often found that children aren’t travelling in a seat at all.
As an adult, you should always be wearing a seatbelt, not only to set a good example, but for your own safety too.
Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “A lot has changed on our roads and even on our pavements since this lockdown began. People are using them in ways they haven’t done before and we’ve got used to less traffic too – although this is changing rapidly.
“Whilst there has been so much change it’s important we’re still reminding children of the basics of road safety, which still apply now and are just as important as ever.”