Hey you, take a walk on the safe side

Every year, millions of children walk to school or to a bus stop. School-age children are especially vulnerable to pedestrian crashes, which result in tens of thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The NHTSA said these injuries and deaths can be reduced if children have a safe route to and from school, if they understand key traffic safety rules, and if motorists who share the roadways obey traffic laws and watch out for kids, and if parents, community leaders, and politicians understand the dangers children face when walking to and from school.

A safe route to school
Children need safe routes to school. This means a route with slower traffic, more crosswalks and crossing guards and more sidewalks with wider surfaces and unobstructed views. Children should learn traffic safety rules at an early age. Parents should teach their children to follow these steps whenever they cross the street:

1 Cross at an intersection or crosswalk, if available.

2 Stop at the curb, the edge of the road, or the corner before proceeding. Look left, then right, then left again for traffic in all directions. If you see a car, wait until it goes by. Then look left, right, left again.

3 When no cars are coming, walk − do not run − across the road. Keep looking for cars when you are crossing.

4 If a car is parked where you are crossing, look to make sure there is no driver and that the car is not running. Then go to the edge of the car and look left-right-left to see if cars are coming.

5 At intersections with traffic lights, watch for turning cars and obey all traffic signals. Wait until you see the “Walk” signal and the green traffic light, then follow the basic rules for crossing. The “Walk” signal and the green light mean that it’s your turn to cross the street, but that does not always mean it’s safe. Always look first.

6 A flashing “Don’t Walk”  signal means don’t cross the street. However, if you have already started crossing when it begins flashing, continue walking.

7 If you see a steady “Don’t Walk” signal, don’t cross the street. Wait for the next “Walk” signal. Walk on the sidewalk if there is one. If there is no sidewalk and you have to walk on the road, be sure to walk facing traffic so you can see what’s coming.

8 If you must walk through stopped traffic, stop and look carefully for vehicles backing up and listen for drivers starting their cars before stepping out from between vehicles. Don’t run between parked cars and buses. Don’t run across the street or through a parking lot.

Be seen, Be safe
Children are less visible to drivers because they are smaller than other pedestrians. Wearing brightly colored clothing is one way to make it easier for drivers to see young pedestrians during the day. After dark, children should carry a flashlight or wear special reflective material on their shoes, clothing, or book bags. It is also important to stop, look, and listen before crossing the road at night.

Parents and motorists can help
Parents and motorists have a responsibility to help ensure the safety of child pedestrians. Children are not small adults. Until they are at least 10 or 11 years old, they don’t have the skills to handle traffic. It can be difficult for children to see motorists or for motorists to see them.

Because their peripheral vision is approximately one-third narrower than an adult’s, children can’t see a motorist approaching from the right or left as soon as an adult can. Children also have difficulty judging a car’s speed and distance, and they often think that if they can see the driver, the driver can see them.

Drivers should observe speed limits at all times, especially around children. When driving in school zones, near playgrounds, or in neighborhoods where children might be playing, motorists should always expect a child to dart out into the roadway. When turning left at a green light or making a right turn on red, drivers need to look for pedestrians as well as cars. Pedestrians always have the right of way in these situations.

(Courtesy of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Safety Office)