The first major moment of independence that children experience in life is taking their first steps. Adults tend to take walking for granted, but for toddlers, it’s taking a fundamental step towards self-sufficiency. It is a huge moment, and rightfully celebrated by parents for that very reason.
However, as children continue walking on their journey into adulthood, they make especially vulnerable pedestrians on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “In 2015, one in every five children under the age of 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.” The CDC also states that child pedestrian safety is “one of the most complex societal problems we face in injury prevention today.”
Pedestrian Risks for Children
Walking is a relatively safe activity in and of itself. However, when you count in busy roads with cars and distracted drivers, it becomes risky very quickly. And sadly, children are often victims in pedestrian-related car accidents. Especially in New Jersey, which has a disproportionate number of pedestrian injury crashes and fatalities compared to the rest of the nation. Walking Safely: A Report to the Nation examines 15-year trends in child pedestrian injuries and deaths in the United States. The report showed that “while walking safety has improved overall for children since 1995, there are still a staggering number of children hit by cars. More than 61 children are injured every day severely enough to seek medical attention. More than 500 children are killed every year.”
Throughout the years, many steps have been taken in an attempt to improve child pedestrian safety, such as school zone programs and a government focus on improving child pedestrian danger awareness.
But oftentimes, it is up to the parents to ensure that their children get the proper education and guidance in how to stay safe while walking. One thing parents must remember is that kids don’t view traffic in the same way as adults—they cannot judge the distance and speed of vehicles due to the fact that their peripheral vision is two-thirds that of an adult! Teaching kids road safety should be a slow and gradual process. First, parents should try to think like kids. Remember that children get distracted; remember that children’s point of view is at a lower level; take all of this under consideration and begin in safe areas and slowly progress toward roads with more traffic. Start discussing what areas are best for crossing the street, and explain why. Be especially careful at these known dangerous locations in New Jersey.
Pedestrian Safety Tips
It’s important to remember some basic pedestrian safety tips as we teach our children how to stay safe on the road. Nothing is ever “too obvious” to mention to your child out loud. Start with the basics, and continue to drill them in until the basics become second nature.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while teaching your kids road safety:
- Don’t let your kids run far ahead of you. A momentary distraction could result in a fatal accident.
- Hold your child’s hand while crossing the street, and don’t let him or her walk alone until you feel 100% ready for it.
- Obey traffic signals, and verbally explain to your kids the importance of crossing the road safely. Don’t assume they will pick up on it without a verbal explanation.
- Cross at intersections only. Don’t let your kids pick up bad pedestrian habits from you. Set a good example by always obeying the rules of the road.
- Before crossing, look left, right, and left again, and listen for traffic.
- Teach your children to always walk on the sidewalk.
- Kids often chase after things. Remind them that it’s not safe to chase after a ball or a pet onto the street.
- Insist that your children wear light-colored or reflective clothing at night.
Safety Tips for Motorists
There are a number of safety tips that all motorists should remember. If you are a driver in New Jersey:
- Be aware of the time of day and when schools start and end in your neighborhood.
- Remember that children can dart into traffic with no warning. Pay attention and slow down when near schools.
- Be patient in school zones and never try to pass a vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk.
- Put away your cell phone. Distracted driving is a common contributing factor in fatal pedestrian accidents.
- Reduce your speed in school zones. You will have more time to react to a potential accident scenario if you go slowly.
Having a child involved in a car accident is nothing short of heartbreaking. Kids make the most vulnerable pedestrians, and sustain the worst injuries due to their small size. As a parent, you want your child to receive the best medical care possible and walk away from the incident stronger than ever, but that costs money. Is the driver who hit your child responsible for covering those costs? Very likely, which is why it’s vital to have a child injury lawyer represent your child’s best interests.
The pedestrian attorneys at Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., have deep experience working with families. As parents ourselves, we know what you’re going through. If your child was injured while walking, let us focus on your case while you focus on your child’s health. Please call (609) 240-0040 to discuss your legal rights.
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