Walk this Way Safely

Walk This Way Safely

When kids are on the streets, safety must take priority

Written by Gabriella Llano, M.D., M.P.H. candidate, with Julie Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., Lyse Deus, Me.D., Oneith Cadiz, M.D., injuryfreemiami.org

Schooltime means getting to school safely, whether on foot, on the bus, or in the family car. It’s great to see children get outside to run, walk, or play, but it’s essential to ensure pedestrian safety.

Children are at increased risk for injury and death because navigating safely around traffic may be beyond their thinking, development, behavioral, and physical abilities. Older kids can be at higher risk while texting, using social media, wearing headphones, or taking a phone call. Most injuries occur from the hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Other risks include areas with increased traffic where the speed limit is higher, places that lack sidewalks or crosswalks, driveways, and in residential areas.

While this may seem frightening, we should encourage children to be outdoors. But we also must be mindful of these important safety tips:

What you can do as a parent to help your child

  • Look left, right, then left again before crossing the street. This is important for young children as well as teenagers.
  • Remember – Just because you see the driver does not mean that the driver sees you.
  • It’s best to walk on the sidewalk or paths. Children should also cross at street corners and use traffic signals and crosswalks as guides. If there aren’t any sidewalks nearby, then teach them to walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Kids should not play in driveways, unfenced yards, or parking lots. Never allow them to run into the street.
  • Always put away their phones, headphones, and other devices when crossing the street.
  • If it’s dawn or dusk, carry flashlights and wear reflective clothing.
  • Remind children about the large blind spot behind the car.
  • Kids under 10 should never cross a street without an adult.
  • Be a good role model when it comes to pedestrian safety.
  • Closely supervise children playing outside near the street.
  • Encourage walking and make it safe to do so. But be sure to consider the age and maturity level of each child. Consider the distance to travel. Consider the volume and speed of traffic in the area.
  • Use caution when driving at all times, and be sure to avoid distractions such as texting while in the car.
  • Work with your community to design safe routes to walk to school by setting safer traffic measures and creating pedestrian walkways that separate pedestrians from car traffic.
  • Advocate for lowering speed limits in your neighborhood or school area.
  • Pedestrian injuries can be prevented as your kids return to the classroom for the upcoming academic year. Enforce these tips to ensure your children arrive at their destinations safely, no matter the time of day or year.
  • For more information about how to keep your child safe, call the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, a program of the Children’s Trust, at 305-243-9080 or visit www.injuryfree.org.