We live in a world of distractions. Everywhere we look, there is something begging for our attention: phones buzzing with notifications, our favorite song at the top of our playlist, the allure of an Instagram feed just waiting to be refreshed…the list goes on. And although distraction can oftentimes be relaxing, when it comes to the road, distraction can be downright dangerous. Put simply, distraction in your car or while walking near traffic is anything that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off what you’re doing.
Let’s Walk and Roll (Safely)! Road Safety for Pedestrians
When you hear “distracted driving,” you might think we’re talking only about people behind the wheel of a car or other vehicle, but many of the same principles apply to those riding bicycles, skateboards, or even just walking!
Here are a few key tips for pedestrians to stay safe near traffic:
- Teach kids at an early age to look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Then remind them to continue looking until safely across.
- It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
- See and be seen! Teach kids to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
- Teach kids to put phones, headphones and devices down when crossing the street. It is particularly important to reinforce the message with teenagers.
- If kids need to use a cell phone, teach them to stop walking and find a safe area to talk.
- Children under the age of 10 need to cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.
Rules of the Road for Drivers
Whenever you get behind the wheel of a car or other vehicle, you’re responsible not just for your own safety, but the safety of the passengers in your vehicle, those in other vehicles on the road and any pedestrians you drive by.
- Buckle up: every person, every time. Before you start your car, make sure you and everyone in your vehicle has their seat belt fastened, and ensure any children are secured properly in their car seats or booster seats.
- Give kids the VIP treatment! The backseat is the safest place for kids younger than 13 years old to sit. Have fun with it and let them know they’re riding in style like VIPs (no stretch limousine required!).
- Limit the number of passengers in the vehicle. As the number of passengers increase, so does the likelihood of being in an accident.
- Always follow the speed limit. Driving too fast or too slow can pose dangers to other drivers and pedestrians. Be especially alert and slow down when driving in residential neighborhoods and school zones.
- Give pedestrians the right of way and look both ways when making a turn to spot any bikers, walkers or runners who may not be immediately visible. Don’t assume they see you – they might be distracted and not paying attention.
- When driving, put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat or out of sight until your final destination.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. While the tips above focus on what the driver can do to keep themselves, their passengers, and others on the road safe, keep in mind that the driver is not the only one responsible for a safe road trip; passengers contribute to keeping everyone safe, too. As a passenger, be an active participant in road safety and speak up when any driver is driving unsafely.
Let Your Actions Speak Louder than Words
It’s important for parents to remember: you are your child’s first and best teacher. Kids are always watching, so it’s important for us adults to set a good example. Keep these tips in mind the next time you get behind the wheel or go out for a walk or bike ride. By modeling the “rules of road” you want your kids to practice, you’ll help make the road safer for everyone.
Interested in Learning More?
Check out Safe Kids Central California's Facebook page for a recording of their recent Lunch and Learn event about distracted driving. You can also visit Safe Kids Worldwide (www.safekids.org) and Impact Teen Drivers (www.impactteendrivers.org) for more information about how to keep yourself and others safe on the road.
About the Authors
Kristina Pasma, BSN, RN, CPSI, is a trauma nurse liaison at Valley Children's Healthcare. She is also the Safe Kids Central California Coalition Coordinator and is passionate about educating children and their families about injury prevention at home and in the community.
Hailey Nelson, MD, FAAP, IBCLC is a complex care pediatrician at Valley Children’s Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center. Dr. Nelson enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities and is especially passionate about providing the best possible care to medically fragile children and their families. As the ambassador for Safe Kids Central California, she is a vocal advocate for children’s wellness and regularly appears in news media discussing pediatric healthcare.