Traffic Safety for Kids, Parents, and Nannies

Categories:: Safety in the Slope Child & Family Safety

Walking in the city presents many challenges that parents in more rural or suburban communities don't have to deal with. From one-way streets to bike lanes, stop-and-go buses to speeding taxis, the bustle of the city traffic can make for complicated walking. 

Below, you'll find tips from PSP members on teaching kids to walk safely as well as advice for parents and nannies who are walking with strollers. This article also includes resources for support and avenues for activism around making the city a safer place for pedestrians.

Set a good example

  • Kids will take rules seriously if their parents do. Parents are busy, and can be in a rush to get somewhere with their kids. Resist the temptation to do what you are trying to teach your kids not to do, such as cross against the light or cross mid-street.
  • Make sure that your kids model good behavior for other kids. If kids stop at lights, friends should not be allowed to tease the one playing it safe.

Teach kids basic pedestrian responsibilities

  • Keep distractions to a minimum. This includes talking on the phone or listening to music as it makes you much likely to hear vehicles coming or people warning you of danger. And texting and walking? Inefficient and dangerous.
  • Don't assume a driver sees you.

Show kids where to walk

  • Always walk on the sidewalk, never the street. (If you must walk in the street, walk against traffic.)
  • Do not walk between parked cars. Parked cars hide you from drivers and could move and hit you.

Explain stopping safely

  • Stop at the curb, not two steps into the road to look around parked cars.
  • Stay a few feet back from the intersection, and wait a few seconds after the signal change to account for drivers who blow through red lights.
  • Don't lead with the stroller. Look around the corner for cars coming down the side street before crossing, rather than putting the stroller out in front before you can see if a car is coming.
  • Be extra-careful about cars turning into the crosswalk. Look over your shoulder and ahead to cars that may cross in front of you.
  • Scooters can be difficult to stop, especially with the incline at most intersections. Train kids to stop before reaching to the corner or don't let them ride ahead if they can't do this.
  • Do not let kids hold or play with balls toys while they walk. It's second nature to dart after these things if it gets dropped.

Crossing

  • Cross in the painted crosswalk, not in the middle of the road or between cars.
  • Try to cross at one-way streets where oncoming side traffic can’t turn.
  • Use specified "safe" crosswalks. Safe crossings are marked, while unsafe crossings are not marked. If it is too dangerous to cross, find a safer route. (Grand Army Plaza is an example of this.)
  • Avoid intersections where more people seem to be speeding. For instance, one member pointed to the corner of 9th Street and PPW as an area where people turn quickly.
  • Walk at a medium speed; not too fast or too slow. Kids should keep pace so they cross before the light changes. Do not run across (the risk of a fall goes up).
  • Take a step back. Take a deep breath instead of stepping out to cross against the light.
  • Each corner has its own little challenges. Be aware and alert nannies to any quirk of nearby corners and crosswalks. Walk with them before they take kids out to show them first-hand.

Show kids how to look

  • Make sure cars are coming to a full stop and the driver has made eye contact with pedestrians before crossing.
  • Look all ways, even if you have the walk signal. Bikes and cars "making the orange" are worth looking out for.
  • Look all ways at one-way street. Bikes "salmon" and go the wrong way or people could be backing up.
  • Pay attention to driveways that cross sidewalks. Cars could be coming out of a back parking lot.

Use a rhyme to remember road rules

  • “Stop, look and listen, before you cross the street.
    First use your eyes and ears, THEN use your feet.”

Learn more about street safety

Get support and be an activist

  • The mission of Transportation Alternatives is to reclaim NYC’s streets from the automobile and advocate for better walking, biking, and public transit for all New Yorkers. Here’s how you can partner with them to take action.
  • Families for Safe Streets is a grassroots advocacy group of people directly impacted by crashes. Here’s info on their New York Chapter, support services for those impacted by traffic violence, and how to take action.
  • StreetsBlog is a daily news source connecting people to information about sustainable transportation and livable communities.
  • Park Slope Street Safety Partnership is a group of community organizations working together with local elected officials to improve street safety in Park Slope, Brooklyn and beyond.
  • Contact your representatives. Members have suggested that, while it’s important to let the Mayor, City Council, and Comptroller know that traffic safety is important to you, it is essential to also reach out to your State representatives (Assembly, Senate, and the Governor), as the most powerful traffic enforcement tools rely on state power.
    Here’s how to find your Council Member, Assemblymember, and Senator. Here’s how to contact the Governor.

Facts about street safety

  • A little extra speed makes a big impact: 2 percent of people die when struck by motorists going 20 miles per hour, 20 percent of people die when struck by a motorist going 30 miles per hour, and 70 percent of people die when struck by a motorist going 40 miles per hour. (Source)
  • Young children do not have the developmental skills and life experience to negotiate walking in city traffic. One study showed children under ten can't do the “vector math” that is to take speed into account when judging whether to cross in front of an oncoming car. In other words, if they see a fast and slow car coming toward them, they think the closer car would hit them first, even if the farther car is coming much faster. (Source)
  • Being struck by a car is the most common cause of injury-related death among children 1-14 years of age and the second-most common cause among those aged 15 and older. (Source)
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