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Teaching Your Child Pedestrian Safety by Age Group

How to Cross the Road By Age

How do you teach your child to walk safely to school? Safe Routes Utah encourages life-long habits of active transportation and pedestrian safety. We share pedestrian safety information that is emotionally, mentally and physically age-appropriate for your children. While parents know what their child is ready for the best, we’re here to provide guidelines and tips for teaching your child how to stay safe while using active methods of transportation.

Children ages four-to-six:

Parents should start teaching their child about traffic safety at the age of four. Listed below are key developmental traits of children from four to six-years-old that all parents and guardians should be aware of when teaching their child about traffic.

  • – Most children between four and six do not fully grasp the dangers of traffic
  • – They are still learning to use their peripheral vision and decision-making skills to process information, like oncoming cars
  • – Children from four to six are typically distracted and impulsive; they often do the unexpected
  • – Young children struggle to see oncoming cars due to obstacles like parked cars because of their small size and undeveloped peripheral vision
  • – They need adults to set an example and provide guidance

How to teach children ages four-to-six:

The basics: 

  • – Walk with your child and hold hands. Tell them: “We always hold hands when we walk to stay safe.”
  • – Explain stop signs, crosswalks, traffic lights and other pedestrian signs that you see along your walk. Tell them: “Stop signs are red, they tell cars to stop. Crosswalks are where people walk across the road. Traffic lights tell cars when to stop and when to go. For cars, red means stop and green means go.”
  • – Show your child the safest place to cross. Tell them: “This is where we cross the road because we can see when cars are coming and they can see us. We cross at a crosswalk or intersection when we can because that is where drivers expect to see people crossing.”

In practice:

  • – Stop at the edge of the road. Tell them: “We stop here at the edge of the road to look for cars before we cross. We only cross where we can see if cars are coming.”
  • – Look in all directions for traffic. Tell them: “Before we cross, we look for cars. We look left, right, left again and behind us. Let’s look together.”
  • – Cross only when no cars are coming. Ask them: “Do you see any cars coming?”
  • – Hold hands when crossing. Walk across the road when no cars are coming. Tell them: “Now we can walk across the road because no cars are coming. We’re going to keep watching for cars as we cross.”

Children ages seven-to-nine: 

As your child grows and has been exposed to traffic safety, they will become more confident and independent. To ensure they are making progress understanding and using pedestrian safety skills, review this checklist.

My child: 

  • – Understands that traffic is dangerous
  • – Uses safe crossing sites that we have identified together
  • – Always stops at the edge of the road
  • – Always looks in all directions before starting to cross
  • – Starts crossing only when no cars are coming
  • – Keeps looking for traffic while crossing
  • – Walks directly across the road

If your child has trouble with these steps, talk about and practice the following:

  • – Safe crossing sites have few cars and clear views of traffic
  • – Always stop at the edge of the road or the curb to look for traffic
  • – It is important to look for cars in all directions before starting to cross
  • – It is safest to cross when no cars are coming from any direction
  • – If you are at an intersection with a walk signal, wait until the walk signal appears and then look in all directions for traffic before crossing
  • – Keep looking for traffic when crossing to make sure you can see oncoming cars
  • – Walking directly across the street is the safest way to cross

Seven-to-nine-year-olds can handle more complex information and detailed directions from adults. Talk with your child about how safe crossing strategies may be different depending on the situation. Seven to nine-year-olds should be focused on developing consistent habits so you can trust them to safely cross traffic alone as they get older. 

Ages 10 and older:

By age 10, many children are ready to walk and cross the street with less or no supervision. To assess your child’s abilities, refer to the same checklist as for seven-to-nine-year-olds. Your child should be consistent and confident in all skills before walking anywhere alone.