Survey reveals that parents often take a “tell, don’t show” approach to teaching their children traffic rules[Dagmar Gilden | 30.11]
At the beginning of the academic year, around 70% of parents of children starting Grade 1 walk, ride or take public transport with their child to show them the route they will be taking on a daily basis. However, the results of the ‘Safe Way to School’ online test conducted by Seesam and the Transport Administration have revealed that although the number of children in higher grades making their own way to school is increasing, far fewer of them are initially accompanied along the route.
Of the 1600 parents who took part, it was also shown that just 57% of parents of children in Grades 1-4 who get to school using public transport accompany them along the route prior to the start of the academic year and that 37% only tell them how to get there rather than showing them.
Seesam’s head of accident insurance Dagmar Gilden says that considering children aged 8-12 top the rankings in accident statistics, the basics of traffic rules should be reiterated to children in lower grades after every school holiday, whenever they join a new after-school club and when the darker and icier time of year arrives. “The most effective way of doing this is by accompanying them along their route to school, with the parent taking the role of teacher the first time and the child then playing the guide the second time,” she said. “After school holidays the focus can be shifted to noticing what’s going on in traffic and taking others into consideration, while at darker and icier times it’s a good idea to repeat the need for a reflector and to explain why it takes cars longer to come to a stop.”
Children driven to school view traffic like drivers
The test, which was designed to assess how safely children make their way to school and after-school clubs, also showed that pupils in Grade 1 tend to be driven to school before starting to make their own way there in later years. Accidents involving children mostly occur while they are moving between school, sports facilities and home. “Children who are used to being driven around often lack experience of making their own way in traffic as pedestrians, which is why they tend to assess things like drivers and can make more mistakes when getting around on foot,” Gilden explained. “I recommend that families who mostly get around by car remind their youngest members of the main rules of safely crossing the road while out walking on the weekend, for example. They could also alert their children to traffic situations while driving, including spotting people in dark clothing when it’s dark outside and how long it takes a car to stop in slippery conditions if someone steps out into the road.”
More than half of those who took the test said that their children’s routes to school involved getting across a number of roads, including at pedestrian crossings without traffic lights. This is where the highest number of accidents involving both children and adults occur. Transport Administration statistics show that the majority of accidents involving children up to the age of 15 occur in the second half of the day, between 15:00 and 19:00, when they are tired from school and less attentive. The most common cause of such accidents is children running out into the road.
“Both pedestrians and drivers tend to switch to ‘autopilot’ and underestimate risks on routes they’re familiar with, and at the same time they’re often staring at their phones or have headphones on listening to music or are chatting to a friend about their day,” said Gilden. “Unfortunately, we’re all aware who comes off worst in accidents involving cars and pedestrians, which is why it’s so important to remind kids, adults and drivers alike of the basics of traffic safety at the darker times of the year. Given that more than 60% of children walk, catch public transport or ride to school, drivers should be particularly cautious in school zones, and they should pay more attention at crossings without traffic lights when it’s dark and slippery out. Plus they should always remember that the amber light means ‘slow down’, not ‘speed up’.”