Young kids have limited judgment, cannot gauge the speed of oncoming traffic, and can be impulsive and lose concentration easily. Being able to walk safely in urban settings is an important skill that needs to be developed over time. I view the process similar to how teenagers learn to drive a car. First, they must practice using good judgment and hone their driving skills with the supervision of an adult, and then their instincts improve over time with experience. To help parents talk to their children about pedestrian safety, I have put together a list of what I believe are the most important safety tips.
As a Portland Pedestrian Accident Lawyer, I see the worst of the worst when it comes to innocent children and teenagers involved in pedestrian and crosswalk accidents. Each case is a unique set of circumstances. However, many pedestrian injury accidents could have been prevented if the driver and/or the pedestrian were paying closer attention to their surroundings. Some people might say my experience has turned me into an overly cautious father, yet I see it as a good thing. I want my children to learn pedestrian safety skills and know how to navigate in a city where pedestrian injuries and accidents continue to surge at an alarming rate.
My goal is to arm parents with information on how to help their own children and reduce the risk of pedestrian accident injuries.
Below are my top 7 child and teenager pedestrian safety tips:
Choosing where to walk – Sidewalks are always the best option. The second choice is to walk facing oncoming traffic as far to the left/right shoulder as possible.
Finding a place to cross – Cross where you can see cars coming from both directions. A dedicated crosswalk is always best. Never cross where there is a bend in the road causing pedestrians to blindly “run for it.”
Identifying traffic patterns – This includes driveways and intersections. Help your child understand that drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians when turning right on a green light, yet trouble occurs when the driver only sees the “green light” and neglects the “walk” signal with a pedestrian present. In spite of signals and right-of-way laws, drivers have a difficult time seeing pedestrians in busy intersections, especially children. Children should be taught never to trust that drivers will yield to them even when the pedestrian has the right of way.
Do not to use cell phones or headphones – One of the largest contributing factors to increased pedestrian injuries is the use of hand-held electronics. USA Today reported that pedestrian cell phone-related injuries have more than doubled since 2005, and the group most at risk is adults under 30 – chiefly between the ages of 16 to 25. There has also been a striking increase in injuries on college campuses – places that usually abound with cell phones and pedestrians.
Keep head forward/chin up – Children tend to watch where their feet are walking or focus on what they have in their hands. The rule in our family is to keep eyes forward and chins up when walking on sidewalks or across streets, and especially in parking lots.
Look in ALL directions – At an intersection with a walk signal, wait until the walk signal appears and THEN look in all directions. Children should wait until cars have come to a complete stop, even if the walk signal and/or the “chirping” signal are on.
Never assume a car can see you – In fact, assume the opposite. This especially applies at dusk and twilight hours, and in rainy conditions. 68% of pedestrian accidents occur at night! Talk with your children about the importance of wearing reflective clothing (non dark clothes) and carrying a flashlight. Black or dark clothing typically reflect less than 5% of light, while the brightest whites reflect only approximately 50-60% of light.
Each child’s development is unique, and of course, you know your child’s behavior and abilities the best. In my research, experts recommend that children 10-years-old and younger should walk and cross streets with adult supervision. To help you assess your child’s skills in walking safely near traffic, I have provided a checklist. (adapted from saferoutesinfo.org)
- Understand that traffic is dangerous
- Uses safe crossing sites
- Always stops at the edge of the road
- Always looks in all directions before starting to cross – including behind him/her.
- Starts crossing only when no cars are coming
- Keeps looking for traffic when crossing
- Walks directly across the road without stopping
- Understands the importance of putting cell phones and players away while walking.
Teenagers and Older Children
As I mentioned above the single most important risk factor for teenagers is crossing the street while distracted by a mobile device. As parents, not only do we have to talk to our teens about the importance of not driving while distracted, but we also need to emphasize the importance of not walking while distracted. In a study conducted by safekids.org, their data concluded that 75% of teen pedestrian deaths occur between 7p.m. and 7a.m., when it is dark out.
Teen Pedestrian Accident Example
In a recent Mayor Law pedestrian accident case, a 19-year-old suffered life-threatening injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, fractured skull and broken pelvis after being struck down by a car while crossing a street in a designated crosswalk at night.
The teen, who graduated from high school less than six months prior to the accident, required emergency medical treatment, multiple surgeries, and a 6-week stay in the hospital.
This collision occurred at dusk in heavy traffic conditions in the Portland metropolitan area when a driver attempted to bypass stopped traffic in the median lane. The teenage pedestrian did everything correctly — obeyed right-of-way laws and waited for traffic to stop in both lanes. The police cited the driver for passing illegally in a non-passing lane.
Portland Personal Injury Attorney Travis Mayor obtained a policy limit settlement of $1,000,000 for the teenage victim, who will endure the permanent effects from this pedestrian injury accident.
Children Learn What They Live
In conclusion, the single most important thing to remember is children “learn what they live” and emulate what their role models (YOU) do. By slowing down and following pedestrian best practices, including putting your cell phone away (which is a big one for us parents), you are setting a great example for your child to learn from.
Contact A Portland Personal Injury Attorney at Mayor Law, LLC
I provide this Blog as an educational and informational service for victims of personal injury and their families. It is not intended to be legal advice, as every case is unique and should be accurately evaluated.
If anyone in your family has been injured as a pedestrian, then you need to seek the help of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. I am happy to discuss the details of your situation for FREE. Please reach out to Mayor Law today at (503) 610-0005 or (800) 949-1481, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, to learn more about your legal rights.