Here in Texas, the weather keeps us warm pretty much all year round, and many people, especially children, choose to walk or ride a bike on a daily basis to get around. Summer is just around the corner, too, meaning that your school-age children will probably be spending even more time outdoors. Now is a great time to reacquaint yourself with the dangers that children face on the road as pedestrians on the way to and from school or summertime activities to make sure your loved ones are safe all year round.
Child Pedestrian Accident Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains statistics on auto and pedestrian accidents, including incidents involving children. The latest NHTSA data, from 2013, shows that 10,000 child pedestrians were injured and 236 were killed by motor vehicles that year across the nation. An additional 5,000 children on bicycles were hurt and 52 children were killed, as well.
The only good news in those statistics is that the numbers have decreased dramatically. In the period between 2004 and 2013, the nation saw a 36 percent drop in child pedestrian deaths and a 60 percent drop in child bicyclist deaths. That’s small comfort to the families of children who have been hurt or killed, though, so here are some tips to help you and your child navigate the streets and sidewalks this year.
Protecting Your Child on the Walk to School
If your child is walking or riding a new and unfamiliar route to school, it’s a great idea to evaluate the route that your child will be taking. One easy way to do this is to join your child and walk to school with him or her. You may choose to walk it during a convenient time, such as on the weekend, or you may accompany your child on his or her first trip to and from school so that you know the specific hazards your child will face in the morning and the evening. Here are some things to look out for:
- Check the route for the level and flow of traffic. Choose routes with intersections that are controlled with traffic lights, stop signs, and crosswalks, and make sure your child knows how to cross safely.
- School usually starts early and it’s often dark in the mornings, so equip your child with clothes that are bright and visible. You may consider buying your child a backpack that has reflectors or even LED lights for visibility. You can also have your child help you apply some high-visibility reflective tape to a bag or jacket in a pattern or design that he or she enjoys.
- Are there other children nearby that your child can join on the way to and from school? Groups are much more visible than individuals. If you’re new to the neighborhood, try reaching out to other parents about having your children walk with theirs.
You may also choose to walk your child to or from school some days, or even every day, though this isn’t always a viable option for working parents. But for those who can make it work, it can be a great family activity, and the exercise is good for both parents and children.
Safety Tips for Children Who Bicycle
Bicycles are great fun for many children, and great exercise, too, but require a different level of care, especially for younger kids. Bicycles can expose children to car traffic even more than walking, so here’s how to help make their rides safe:
- A quality helmet is absolutely a must. Your child’s helmet should be CPSC-approved, and he or she should wear it every time he or she rides. There is no statewide helmet law for youths, but multiple cities have local ordinances that require riders under the age of 18, including Houston, Austin, and Ft. Worth. Regardless of legal status, make sure your child has a helmet—and uses it.
- High visibility clothing is crucial for bicyclists, and reflective tape can easily be affixed to helmets, too.
- Don’t let young children ride at dawn or dusk, and make sure older children have both headlights and tail lights for their bicycles.
- Teach your children safe bicycling practices of riding with traffic, stopping at all intersections—even uncontrolled ones—then using hand signals and looking both ways before crossing or turning.
Younger children should never ride without an adult. Use your best judgement about the route and hazards on the trip before you decide whether or not your older children should ride in the street.
Child Safety Is in Your Hands
Talk to your child about walking and riding safely. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make sure your child is safe on his or her daily commute to school, but all it takes is one accident to change your family’s life forever.
If the worst has happened and your child has been hurt on the way to school in Texas, we may be able to help you. Even an injury that seems minor can have life-long repercussions on your child’s growth and development. Please reach out to our offices about your child’s accident today.