CAM WOOLLEY, a 30-year veteran of the Ontario Provincial Police’s traffic and safety division (and now the popular traffic reporter for Toronto’s CP24 news channel) has a few reminders for getting our kids safely across the great divide.
Blame Dad, too, or, in fact, any caregiver because children learn street safety habits by absorbing the behaviour of those around them. “Often parents’ personal habits don’t set a great example,” says Woolley. “You can see it every morning as parents take their kids to school. Take a look and see how many are crossing midblock, or running with their strollers through an orange light.” Set an example; walk to the end of the block and cross at the corner or, at traffic lights, wait for the flashing lights.
Danger! Check behind the car
Wooley says, “The size of SUVs and minivans makes it hard to see a child who has just chased a ball behind your car. Parents who pick up their kids after school are usually in a rush to get them to their hockey game or dance class, and they back out quickly without checking behind the car. Wham! A kid gets hit.”
Ensure driveways are clear before heading out by checking every time you get into your car. And teach your pre-schoolers to be aware of parked vehicles, not just the ones that are moving.
There’s a time to let go
If we try too hard to keep our kids safe, we end up putting them in harm’s way. “A lot of parents, in their need to protect their kids, drive them everywhere,” says Woolley. “They drive them from door to door. You can see them double-parked in front of the schools every morning. These kids are never going to learn street smarts if they always are dropped off at the front door.”
Accompany kids to age nine
Wooley say that no one is advocating that your five-yearold walk to kindergarten on his own. Most experts, in fact, recommend a child be accompanied to school until at least the age of nine. You can, however, introduce lessons in road safety by parking a block from school and walking with your child that last block. If they want to visit a friend’s house, let them walk slightly ahead of you so you can observe their instincts around roads and cars.
Introduce these minor changes and you will help your road warriors learn some life-saving street smarts of their own.