(and maybe in your neck of the world) are teaching their kids is that they have the right of way over vehicles. To me, this is such an absurd lesson to be teaching children, either consciously or subconsciously which is why I am posting this
I come from a small town in Northern Ontario and one of the first life lessons I can remember being taught was "ALWAYS LOOK OUT FOR CARS BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT LOOKING OUT FOR YOU!!". When I am in Ontario and Florida my friends and family have to actually reprogram me not to stop in the middle of some road or parking lot to let people cross because in those areas of the world pedestrians don't move an inch and actually frantically wave me past because they understand that they DON'T have the right of way (unless it is a pedestrian walkway, of course).
However, here in my beautiful city of Calgary, the mentality of 'right of way" is completely opposite and lately, it's been blowing my mind. I am so frustrated with the amount of adults, with and without children in tow, stepping out into traffic while paying no mind to the oncoming vehicle(s). The confidence in which these people break stride across the street or in a parking lot screams, "YOU HAD BETTER STOP BECAUSE I (we) HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY!".
To some degree here in Calgary, that is true or at least perceived to be true by drivers and pedestrians alike. We have probably the most pedestrian crossings, playground and school zones per capita than anywhere else on earth (I make that claim loosely because I seriously have no idea but it seems so) and we have VERY STRICT laws in place to protect pedestrians, as we should but unfortunately it is of my opinion that this has caused people to
Before I go any further, I do not proclaim that drivers are innocent. We all need to slow down, pay attention and be more aware of pedestrians to help prevent injuries or deaths. Sadly, not ALL drivers share this responsibility. I have been know to drive a little too fast and a little to distracted at times but mostly, I am a very safe, aware driver who keeps the safety of everyone in my vehicle as well as the members of my community a priority.
What I AM saying is that pedestrians, specifically those in Calgary, need to start owning some of the responsibility in the equation of Safe Driving + Safe Walking= Safety for ALL.
I did a pretty extensive search for statistics in Canada regarding pedestrian accidents and unfortunately, Canada doesn't seem to think those are all that important. However, I did manage to find a site with a wealth of information on preventing injuries and saving lives of all Canadians. From farm injuries to sport safety and everything in between, including a really cool Walk This Way assessment tool for children and communities, it's something worth checking out at their site called Parachute
To go to point on this
What are the top five road safety rules for my child?
Walk with your child and talk with them about pedestrian safety! These top five tips will help you show your child how to cross the street safely:
- Stop. Think, look and listen for vehicles. Check both ways before crossing the road. Don't be preoccupied with anything but safely navigating from point A to B. Yes the sky is blue and the grass is green but keep your eyes forward and side to side! Thank you.
- Cross only at intersections. Never cross in the middle of the street or between parked cars and never run onto the road. Because I will seriously KICK YOUR A$$!
- Recognize and follow the crossing signals. Even when the signal tells you it is safe to walk, make sure the street is clear and all cars have stopped before crossing. Vehicles are MUCH larger and DEADLIER than you are therefore, you DO NOT have the right of way...E-V-E-R!
- Watch out for cars coming out of driveways and alleys. Remember how mommy almost hit that really nice old couple last week driving out of the driveway? Ya. Pay attention please because not everyone does All.The.Time.
- Use streets with sidewalks. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic, away from the road if possible, and in single file. Or better yet, DO NOT walk where there is no sidewalk! By the way, where could you possibly be going (that is of any good) where there is no sidewalks?!?!?!
Top five tips for parents
- Model safe behaviour. Practice the safe pedestrian habits that you want your child to copy. Even if you are in a hurry or running late and for gawd sakes, put the phone away and pay attention! Monkey see. Monkey do!
- Start with your toddler and gradually teach them about safety as they grow. Use opportunities while walking to have conversations about safety. Avoid long-winded lectures that your child may not understand yet. Go ahead and give a long lecture if they break any of the "rules". In fact, get angry about it so they know how serious walking safely really is!
- Until your child reaches age nine, make sure he crosses the street with an adult or older responsible child. Continue to walk with your child and teach him how to cross the street safely, adjusting conversations to match your child's level of understanding. This site has some very convincing data regarding the "magic" age 9 (when kids are typically developmentally able to safely navigate the world independently) however, I truly feel this is a matter of individuality. Regardless, when you feel your child is ready to be more independent, they should be able to safely and correctly demonstrate the needed skills, WITHOUT FAIL (see below).
- Have your nine year old show you that they know how to cross the street safely. Ask them to point out the risks and tell you what they would do. Spy on them periodically. That's right, hop in the vehicle and follow them around. I am NOT a helicopter parent but sometimes spying has it's place in parenting! Because I tell you if I EVER see my teenage kid saunter across the street like they haven't a care in the world like so many do these days, I might run them over myself. (Kiddin') (kinda)!
- Age nine is just a guide Some children may not be ready until later. When your child is more independent, continue to create opportunities for regular discussions. Listening to your child will reveal how confident they are traveling independently and if they have any concerns. Agreed.
Well, I guess that's all I gotta say about that...for now. I am trying to do MY part while driving, walking and most importantly, in the way in which I am raising my kids to WALK SAFE!