Road safety is seriously important stuff – life and death you might say. I know this firsthand, having lost my sister in a car accident back in my teenage years. It breaks my heart each time I let my mind wander over the fact that there should have been an extra pair of auntie’s arms to wrap around my girls. That’s something that road trauma stole away from us as a family that we can never get back.
In light of all this I’ve always been determined my kids will grow up road safety smart. But, as with most things, life gets busy and even the seriously important things start to get missed. Then last year I had a huge ‘road safety’ kick up the tooshie when my five year old ‘throw caution to the wind’ child was thrown off her bike by some pretty gnarly speed wobbles. We were off on a family bike ride and no matter how many times we told her that going a million miles an hour down a hill was not going to end well, she just didn’t listen. A broken leg, a broken thumb, an operation, two nights in hospital and some serious face laceration later and we’re all perfectly ready to put our Hector The Road Safety Cat hats back on. (Come on – you must remember Hector – he was legendary back in the day.)
Let’s face it, our kids are vulnerable on the road. They are small, inexperienced and often don’t recognise danger when it stands in front of them waving its arms in the air. Here in Victoria I’m happy to say the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is putting some extra effort into teaching our kids the skills they need to be safe. You may have seen ThingleToodle on the TV already? Little miss ‘throw caution to the wind’ got to meet him at kinder last year and came home full of excited chatter about what he had to say. Not that this actually stopped the saga of the speed wobbles and broken bones, but she did know how important helmets are and was thankfully wearing one.
Anyhoo these are the five top tips for teaching pre-school aged kids road safety as recommended by ThingleToodle and the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria. Read them and apply them to your lives. Post-it-note them to your forehead if necessary! And may the force be with you (and me) as we train our little people to be safe on our roads today and in the future.
Parental Role Modelling (copy cat)
Children learn by watching the adult in their lives. What we do is much more important than what we say. Always wear your own seatbelt, obey road rules, drive courteously and cross roads safely. Never leave children alone to play near parked or moving vehicles, and separate your children’s play areas away from driveways. Getting children in and out of cars safely – make it a habit to get your children in and out of the car from the safety doors – away form traffic. As your child becomes more independent, they will then expect to continue this habit.
Wearing a helmet on a bike (Helmet Rap)
Make sure children wear correctly fitted helmets that meet the Australian standard when riding bikes, scooters or wheeled toys, and get your child in the habit of removing their helmet after they have finished riding. Children under the age of 12 years can ride a bicycle on footpaths, but cyclists must ensure to keep left and give way to any pedestrians. Cyclists must also be very careful when crossing driveways and roads. It is the law to wear a helmet so parents should always wear one if they are riding as they are role models to their children. Even if playing in the driveway or footpath outside the house, if children are using a bicycle, skateboard or scooter they should wear a helmet so that it becomes a good habit in these early development years.
Seatbelts in the Car (Buckle Up)
Children are safest when they are in a child car seat that is appropriate for their age and size. By law, all children under 7 must be secured in a child car seat. However, most 7 year old children are still too short for a normal seatbelt. Children should continue using a booster seat until they have outgrown it, or until they fit well in a normal seatbelt. Many child restraints are not installed correctly. To check that your child is safe, check: The restraint is the right size for your child, the restraint is correctly fitted to your vehicle, the restraint is properly fasted and adjusted for your child
Hold hands with a parent when crossing the road (holding hands)
Five things Adults can do to keep kids safe near roads: Supervise children, hold hands when crossing the road, talk with children about how to safely cross the road and practice the skill together, involve children in crossing the road by asking them to help make decisions about when it is safe to cross, model safe road crossing behaviour – set children a good example.
Stop, look and listen before crossing the road. (Stop, Look, Listen, think.)
Kids need the important adults in their lives to provide them with plenty of supervised practice in the real road environment to help develop their understanding of these ideas.
Oh and if you are in Melbourne and interested in having your little people meet ThingleToodle in person he will be appearing at Village Cinemas in Knox and Sunshine between 10am and 1pm on the 20th of december 2014 and the 10th of January 2015 respectively. Trust me they will love him.
Do you have a road safety tip for or story to share? Love to hear them in the comments if you do.