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Pedestrian Safety

Teaching Your Children Pedestrian Safety

Walking on the inside of the sidewalk at all times. crossing.jpg

The Reality:

Walking close to the outside edge of the sidewalk (curb) is very dangerous for children. They can be hit by reckless drivers, and they can dart out into the street faster than an adult can react.

The Solution:

Teach children that every sidewalk has two sides: a safe inside area, close to the houses and/or the grass; and a dangerous outside area, close to the road.

KID BRAKES: Stopping before the edge of the sidewalk at all times.

The Reality:

Children can't see what's going on around them as well as adults can because they are smaller. They must come to a complete stop before they can be expected to look for traffic. Children can also be easily distracted by a dog, a friend or a noise and forget to stop altogether.

The Solution:

Teach children to treat their feet as "KID BRAKES" and the edge of the sidewalk as a barrier where they must always stop.

KID BRAKES: Stopping at driveways, alleys and areas without curbs.

The Reality:

Children are not drivers - they may not know that there are many different kinds of access routes. For the same reason, children are also not aware that a driver using these routes may not be able to see everything around them.

The Solution:

Teach children when and how to make their own barriers in places other than sidewalks. Point out special areas such as alleys and driveways. Explain how drivers in these areas sometimes have trouble seeing around them and why it is important for children to be on the alert.

The Activity:

Stopping at areas without curbs

Find a place that has no curbs (a new subdivision, for example)

Standing well off the road, ask the child to look for oncoming traffic. If he/she can't see down the road, take a small step forward. The idea is to be a safe distance from passing cars but not so far that the child's view is blocked by trees, etc.

Repeat in different places until the child understands how to create a "barrier" in places where there is no curb.

Explain to the child that this barrier is where he/she must always STOP and apply KID BRAKES.

Teach the child to look for cars that may be pulling in or pulling out and explain how the driver's view in these situations is sometimes blocked.

Making "Stop, Look and Listen" a habit.

The Reality:

Children have short attention spans and are easily distracted. Safety must become a habit while they are still young to make up for these natural tendencies.

The Solution:

Teach children by example: be an adult who practices traffic safety in an obvious way. Repeat "Stop, Look and Listen" often. Challenge children to learn the habit and reward them when they do.

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Crossing the street in the middle of the block.

The Reality:

Children will often cross in the middle of the block rather then walk to a corner because they don't want to go out of their way.

The Solution:

Teach children the safe way to cross in the middle of the street.

The Activity:

Pick a good spot to cross (very little traffic, a clear view, etc.). Walk up to the curb with the child and together say "STOP" as you stop.

Tell the child to "LOOK, first to the left, then to the right and the left again while LISTENING for traffic." Gently turn the child's head to show him/her how far to LOOK in each direction. Make sure the child can tell the difference between parked cars and moving cars.

Test the child by asking him/her to take you by the hand and help you cross the street (make sure the way is clear and be ready to hold the child back if it isn't).

When the child feels ready to cross the street alone, follow closely behind and correct any mistakes.

Crossing the street when playing.

The Reality:

Children may forget about safety rules when they are playing.

The Solution:

Make a point to practice safety lessons during play, so that children learn that safety is a part of play.

The Activity:

Tell the child to stay on the sidewalk while you put a toy on the opposite side of the street.

Return to the child and ask him/her to fetch the toy while showing you the "Stop, Look and Listen" rules learned thus far. Insist that he/she say out loud every step in the process.

When the child has reached the toy on the other side of the street, join him/her there and repeat the exercise, if necessary.

Do the exercise a final time, switching roles so that the child can grade you on how well you have followed the rules.

Crossing the street with a crossing guard.crossingguard.jpg

The Reality:

It is a crossing guard's job to help school children cross the street, yet sometimes children don't know how to follow the guard's signals. Also, children who use a crossing guard may forget their safety rules when the guard is off duty.

The Solution:

Teach children to respect the role of the crossing guard and to understand his/her signals. Remind children that the rules of crossing safely also apply when the guard is absent.

Crossing at intersections with traffic light s.img101.gif

The Reality:

Children may be confused by traffic lights and not obey the signals.

The Solution:

Teach children the exact meaning of each signal and remind them that the signals are not a replacement for safety habits like "Stop, Look and Listen."

The Activity:

Stand with the child in a safe place at an intersection with traffic lights. Do not let go of the child's hand.

Without leaving your spot, watch as the traffic lights go through an entire cycle.dontwalk.jpg

Explain first the signals for the cars: RED, YELLOW, and GREEN.

Then explain the pedestrian signals: WALK, DON'T WALK. Reinforce that WALK also means DON'T RUN. If a signal appears when the child is part way across, he/she must keep on crossing and not run.

Teach the child that at some traffic lights, they must push a button and wait for the WALK signal.

Reinforce that STOP, LOOK and LISTEN always applies, even with a WALK signal. Point to a car turning into the crosswalk and show how it is a danger to people crossing. Explain that eye contact with the driver is the only way to be sure that the driver has seen you.

Reminding the child that KID BRAKES always apply, walk back from the corner about 30 feet and approach again. Ask the child to lead you by the hand across the street at the next safe time (WALK signal). Correct any mistakes. 

Crossing at a corner with no traffic lights.crossingstreet2.jpg

The Reality:

A corner without lights can be scary for a child. There is no WALK signs to give the child "permission" to cross, and cars come from four directions. Also, drivers can be careless when not guided by traffic lights.

The Solution:

Teach children to be extra alert in this situation, to follow the rules without exception and to pay special attention to drivers.

Crossing between parked cars.crossing3.jpg

The Reality:

Children should never be encouraged to cross between parked cars, which not only block their view, but also the view of oncoming drivers. However, they need to be prepared for those times when places to cross are limited.

The Solution:

Teach children the safest way to cross. Explain why drivers cannot see small children between parked cars and why it is important for children to be on the alert.

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Crossing railway tracks.

The Reality:

Many people ignore the crossing protection at railway crossings thinking that they can "beat" a speeding train, either on foot or in their cars. Many are killed. Some children also think it's an adventure to walk along railway tracks or to cross railway tracks in unmarked areas. Both habits are not only extremely dangerous; they are against the law.railwood.jpg

The Solution:

Remind children that playing games at railway crossings or around trains can be deadly. Trains travel at different speeds and in both directions on as many as 5 or 6 tracks. Teach children that the only safe way to cross is to use designated railway crossings, and obey all signals and/or signage.

The Activity:

  • Visit a public rail crossing in your area likely to be used by your child.
  • STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN for a train approaching from both directions.
  • When you see a train in the distance, ask the child to LISTEN carefully to the sound it makes.
  • Point out what happens when the crossing protection receives the signal that a train is coming - flashing lights, bell and/or gate.
  • Note; Crossing protection varies.
  • As the train passes, point out that the train travels fast and cannot stop quickly.
  • Once the train has passed, STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN for another train. Warn the child never to assume that there is just one train.
  • At crossings with lights and a bell, it is not safe to cross until flashing and ringing stops completely.
  • When the way is clear, walk across the tracks. Remind the child how to walk safely.

Walking on and crossing rural roads.

The reality:

There can be no one guide to traffic safety in rural areas. Conditions change from one road to the next. Safety rules must be customized to each child and the routes he/she uses.

The Solution:

Get to know the child's routes in detail.

Talk about the special conditions you see and how to deal with them. Join with neighbourhood kids and their parents to come up with a safety plan that works for the roads in your area.

Testing safety habits: walking alone or with friends.

The Reality:

A child cannot be supervised 24 hours a day, every day. There will be many times when a child is walking alone or with friends.

The Solution:

Be sure that children are practicing their safety rules. First, make up safety quizzes on your walks around the neighbourhood - ask the child to point out the safety places to cross, for example.

Second, watch what the child does on his/her regular routes.

The Activity:

  • Walking alone
  • Plan a walk in your neighbourhood, which takes you and the child to many streets and corners. Running errands is a simple way to do this.
  • Ask the child to choose the route to each place you have to go and then let the child lead you. Correct mistakes and practice.
  • Along the way, have the child is comfortable taking the lead.
  • On another day, repeat the exercise while watching the child from a distance (no more than a half block)
  • Walking with friends
  • Plan a walk with a group of the child's friends. The route home from school is a good choice. (Children are most distracted after school. They want to run and have fun. The chance of traffic injury is greater at this time than before school.)
  • Ask the children to lead you.
  • Follow the "walking alone" activity above.

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  • In areas without sidewalks, teach children to walk next to the road, in single file and facing traffic. If they are forced to walk on the road, they should stay as close to the side of the road as possible.
  • Watch the child at play to be sure he/she is suing KID BRAKES.
  • On walks around the neighbourhood, show the child how parked cars, curves in the road, hills and trees can block the view of oncoming traffic. Explain that these are dangerous areas to cross.
  • There may be no official plan of action if a crossing guard is absent or if the children are dismissed from school earlier than usual.
  • Talk to your child, other parents and the school about what to do if this happens.
  • Warn the child never to cross on a diagonal (j-walk).
  • ALL WEATHER ALERT: Make sure you repeat Activity 1 & 2 in bad weather. If you see children following safety rules in the snow and rain - when there are more dangers to think about 


Safety professionals warn that children under the age of 7 should not cross any streets alone, and that children under the age of 9 should not cross busy streets alone.



  • Find ways to practice traffic safety during the child's daily activities on walks to the park, to the store, to school etc.
    Keep on practicing. Keep safety messages fresh.


  • Set a good example! Children will copy behavior, good or bad.
  • Tell babysitters, grandparents and neighbors the same messages you tell your children.


  • Remember that children judge distance, speed and sounds differently than adults.
  • Be patient and praise, praise, praise.
  • Safety Habits to be learned…
  • STOP before stepping onto the road
  • LOOK all ways
  • LISTEN for vehicles which can't be seen
  • Check that cars have been stopped
  • Make eye contact with drivers
  • Obey traffic signs


Parking lots are very dangerous places. A lot of cars are moving around in a small space and drivers are often distracted. Parked cars can suddenly stop.


  • Hold the child's hand at all times
  • If you are holding bags in both hands, ask the child (or children) to hold onto your clothing or hug your legs
  • When you get to your car, put the child in the car before you load the bags (rest the bags on the ground next to the car until you're ready).

Learning traffic signs:

  • Point out traffic signs in the neighbourhood and explain what they mean
  • Quiz the child during walks and drives around town
  • Be sure to include a full variety of signs in your quizzes, even if it means going out of your way during walks or drives

Walking calmly:

  • Ask the child to make a "nest" with his/her hands. Place an imaginary egg in the child's "nest" and ask him/her to walk across the
    yard or driveway without "breaking the egg." Follow closely behind.

Listening for traffic:

  • Stand on the sidewalk holding the child's hand. Ask the child to close his/her eyes and tell you when he/she hears a car coming.
  • Learning the difference between moving cars and parked cars:
  • Find a safe place off the road (benches at a bus stop, for example). Do not let go of the child's hand.
  • Looking down the street, say the rhyme, "I spy with my little eye something that is green." And it is a parked car." Ask the child to point it out.
  • Changer the rhyme: "I spy with my little eye something that is red. And it is a moving car." Ask the child to point it out.
  • Ask the child to "test" you with the rhyme. Continue with the game until he/she can tell the difference between parked cars and moving cars - especially slow-moving cars.

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Railway crossings:

Type 1

The ideal crossing: flashing lights, bells, and a gate, which descends. Usually located at busy crossings in well populated areas.

Type 2

Similar to Type 1, except without the gate. Usually located in well-populated areas at crossings with moderate traffic.

Type 3

Consists of a reflectorized reflective "crossbuck" only, without lights, bells, or a gate. Located in rural areas and places where there is minimal rail traffic.


Stepping on top of a rail is very dangerous - a child's foot can slip and become wedged in the groove. NEVER RIDE A BIKE over the tracks. A tire can get caught in the rails and cause the cyclist to fall.

For more information on railway safety visit the CN website.
CN has a wonderful site where kids can enter a wonderful world of fun and learn about railway safety at the same time. Click here to link to this website.

No Sidewalks and No Curbs:

Walking - Teach the child to walk beside the road, in single file and facing traffic. If they are forced to walk on the road, they should stay as close to the edge of the road as possible. In winter, decide how to deal with snow banks.

Obstructed views:

Curves in the road, trees and snow banks can block a child's view of oncoming traffic. Point out the best places to cross and the areas never to cross. Make sure the child understands exactly what it is that is blocking his/her view so he/she can look for problems on other routes.


Can travel faster on rural roads and so a child must wait for a larger break in traffic to cross safely (without running). To measure the time it takes to do so, cross the road together while counting "One Thousand, etc." method. Practice until the child understands how much time is needed.


Rural roads often do not have enough street lamps and in the winter it gets dark early. Teach the child to be extra alert at these times and to always wear brightly colored clothes (they stand out against snow, too) or preferably, clothes with reflective stripes.

Special Dangers:

Point out anything in your area that is a hazard to the child, including farm vehicles, construction equipment, hidden intersections and railway crossings. Always be on the lookout for changes to the area (road repair, for example) that should be discussed with the child

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