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Pedestrian Safety

Although fewer children are walking and exposing themselves to the risks of traffic, pedestrian injury remains the second leading cause of unintentional-injury related death among children between the ages of 5 and 14.

Children are at an increased risk for pedestrian injury and death because the traffic rules and risks often exceed their cognitive, developmental, behavioral, physical, and sensory abilities. In addition, parents and caregivers often overestimate their child's traffic skills.

One specific age group, ages 1 to 2, is at increased risk for nontraffic-related pedestrian injuries, such as when a car backs up in the driveway, parking lot, or on sidewalks.

Unfortunately, injuries sustained by child pedestrians are often severe.

Where do most child pedestrian injuries and deaths occur?

Many child pedestrian deaths occur in the evenings when visibility may be reduced. Areas that pose an increased risk of injury or death as a child pedestrian, include the following:

  • High traffic areas

  • Areas with a high number of parked vehicles on street

  • Areas with higher posted speed limits

  • Areas with no divided highways

  • Areas with few pedestrian-control devices, such as crosswalk signals

  • Locations that lack designated play areas 

  • Residential areas

  • Straight, paved, dry roads

How do I keep my child safe as a pedestrian?

  • Children under age 10 should not be allowed to cross streets by themselves.

  • Teach proper pedestrian behavior by modeling pedestrian behavior correctly, such as crossing at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks when available, and making eye contact with drivers before crossing.

  • Teach children to look LEFT, RIGHT, and then LEFT again when crossing a street, and to continue looking around when crossing.

  • Teach children that seeing the driver in a vehicle does not mean that the driver can see them.

  • Never allow children to run into the street.

  • Do not allow children to play in driveways, unfenced yards, streets, or parking lots.

  • When walking along a street with no sidewalks, teach children to walk facing oncoming traffic, as far left as possible.

  • At dawn and dusk, children should wear reflective materials and carry flashlights.

  • Teach children to cross the street at least 10 feet in front of a school bus.

  • Children should wait for adults on the same side of the street where the school bus loads and unloads.

Other preventive measures to take may include insisting on safer traffic measures, pedestrian walkways that separate pedestrians from the traffic, and lower speed limits.

Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Roux, Susan L., ARNP
Last Review Date: 4/16/2013
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