After visiting over 55 schools to present our Beat the Street assembly this year, we’ve heard from principals who have raised concerns about parental behaviors regarding crosswalk safety and safety in pick-up/drop-off lanes. Many principals shared that their main motivation in having Safe Routes present at their school was to teach, remind, and prepare their students to follow safety guidelines in and around their schools—hoping that it would also influence parents to do the same.
“They can find themselves caught between obeying safety laws and what their parents are telling them to do—an obstacle they shouldn’t have to navigate.”
Children are receptive to our message and are eager to participate, answer questions, and practice what we discuss. They want to follow pedestrian safety guidelines and often already know what they should do. However, they can find themselves caught between obeying safety laws and what their parents are telling them to do—an obstacle they shouldn’t have to navigate.
Do we, as parents, recognize the potential risks, or even the unsafe example and expectations we may unintentionally set for our children?
At one school, for example, parents consistently park at a church across from the elementary school. As school lets out, they call their child/children while waving for them to cross where there aren’t crossing guards or crosswalks. Yikes, that’s dangerous!
At another school, parents park in the school parking lot instead of waiting in designated pick-up/drop-off lanes. Then, when they spot their children they’ll either call and wave for them to come, or walk with them—weaving through cars and buses to get into their vehicle. Doing this means the driver’s view is often blocked by parked vehicles and the pedestrian has an obscured view creating a risk too great to be worth it.
There were so many variations of these scenarios that the growing concern had us thinking about what we can do to help. We can’t exactly hold an assembly for parents, but we CAN offer reminders, tips, and encouragement. We invite parents to pause and think about what example we set if we choose to disregard pedestrian safety:
- When you’re in a hurry, rules don’t apply.
- Convenience and ease trump waiting in lines.
- Safety guidelines don’t apply if a parent says it’s ok.
- As long as my parents are with me, I’m safe regardless of the laws/rules.
- Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals.
- Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
- If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
- Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
- If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross.
- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
- Embrace walking as a healthy form of transportation – get up, get out, and get moving.
And one bonus tip:
- Know and be a supporter of the pedestrian safety guidelines and expectations of your child’s school.
Parents, we need YOUR help. We can’t be successful without you.