For many children, walking or biking is a convenient and healthy way to get to school. However, it can be potentially unsafe and even deadly when not done correctly.

“Children do not have the cognitive skills to be crossing streets safely alone until at least age 10,” said Sharon Evans, RN, BSN, CPN, injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s. “They haven’t yet developed the depth perception or the ability to maturely judge the speed of an object.”

Kids age 10 and younger should not walk or ride bicycles, scooters or skateboards alone to school because they:

  • Are easily distracted by friends and toys.
  • Can’t determine the direction of sounds.
  • Can’t judge the speed or distance of a moving vehicle.
  • Don’t understand how long it takes a vehicle to stop.
  • Have too narrow a field of vision.

Even when kids reach age 10, it’s still best for parents to accompany them to school whenever possible.

Teaching Your Child Pedestrian Safety

“When I visit children who have suffered pedestrian injuries, the most common thing they tell me is that they thought the driver saw them,” explained Evans. “It’s important to teach your children that just because they see a driver, it doesn’t mean the driver sees them. They need to make eye contact with the driver and wait for the driver to stop and signal to them before attempting to cross the street.”

While teaching your children to ride their bikes or walk to school, don’t forget to tell them to cross only at crosswalks; look left, right and then left again; and to watch for cars that are turning or backing up. The best way to teach your child pedestrian and bike safety is to be a good role model yourself. It’s also a good idea to encourage your children to wear bright clothing and reflectors when they’re walking before dawn or after dusk.

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