Share These Back-to-School Road Safety Tips with Your Kids

If your kids will be walking or biking to school this year, now is a good time to have a talk about safety

Kids ride their bikes on a path outdoors

It may not look or feel like any you’ve experienced before, but back-to-school season is here. And, while parents are understandably focused on the health of their children inside school premises, it’s important that they remain vigilant about safety outside those doors too.

The pandemic will not allow for any exceptions to road safety, after all. So, in addition to important conversations around hand hygiene and masks, the beginning of school is a great time to sit your kids down to discuss pedestrian and cycling safety.

Safety Begins at Home

Whether heading to school on foot or bike, students need to be mindful of the rules that keep us all safe, says P.C Peter De Quintal, community school liaison officer at the Toronto Police Service.

While nurturing your child’s independence is essential to their growth, encouraging them to be advocates for their own wellbeing is equally important. “If you can walk your kids to school, it’s better than driving them,” he says, explaining that it can help them understand their neighborhood and learn the route. If they should ever get lost, they would then have the knowledge to get them home safe and sound.

Heed the Rules of the Road

Parents should also ensure that their kids understand basic traffic lights and road signs. According to Parachute, a Canadian national charity dedicated to injury prevention, pedestrian injuries are one of the leading causes of injury-related deaths for children 14 years of age and younger.

Knowing when and how to cross the road and to be aware of one’s surroundings are essential. Looking left and right before stepping into the street is a rule that never gets old because it can save lives in its very simplicity.

Make sure to teach your kids to obey traffic lights, De Quintal adds. And here’s the twist: with newfangled lights at most intersections, your child should watch not only for the green light but for the pedestrian hand. If it’s telling you to stop, don’t cross. “The intersection may be allowing traffic to move first and then people. The cars won’t necessarily anticipate you being there."

And for your older kids, whose ears may be glued to headphones, now is a good time to remind them to walk without them. Ear buds are the better choice, but the bottom line is to ensure they’re focused on the noise and happenings around them. If they hear sirens in the distance, they should wait until it stops before proceeding across the roadway.

Two-Wheel Safety

Due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s not surprising to see more people biking and walking these days. While they may be in better shape than before, the reality can prove problematic too. According to the SickKids hospital, there’s been a substantial increase—186 per cent—in bike injuries in April and May of 2020, as compared to the same period in 2018.

To counter that stat, we need to place a greater emphasis on obeying rules, De Quintal says. If your child is riding his or her bike to school, helmets properly fastened is key. At a stop light your child must dismount and then remount on the other side.

Younger children are often advised to ride on the sidewalk instead of the road, ensure they share the space cautiously with fellow pedestrians. Cycling by-laws differ across Ontario communities, however, so be sure to contact your local municipality for information that governs your area.

No matter where they ride, however, your child’s bike should be maintained in good working order. That means it must be equipped with lights, reflectors and a bell, horn or other means of letting those around them know they’re coming.

And remember one’s ABCs, De Quintal says, explaining the need to check the air, brake and chain (ABC) or crank to make sure it’s operating properly.

Other biking rules to follow include:

  • Ride in a straight line on the right-hand side of the road, in the same direction as traffic.
  • Use hand signals early when turning or stopping.
  • Check driveways for cars turning in or backing out and make eye contact with drivers.

 

Learn More

At CAA we’re dedicated to road user safety and the wellbeing of our children is paramount to us. If you’re a teacher or a school liaison officer looking for road safety related lesson plans, or how to organize a bike rodeo, visit ontarioroadsafety.ca.

Image credit: iStock.com/stockstudioX

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