by Andrea Klassen, Alberta Health Services
September brings the start of a new school year and a reminder to slow down in school zones.
Reminding your children to be smart pedestrians is equally as important as slowing down and being an aware driver. Although the majority of children survive pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions, they are often left with long-term disabilities and permanent damage as a result (Parachute, 2016). Injuries related to motor vehicle and pedestrian collisions include head, organ and bone injuries.
Reducing our traffic speeds can greatly reduce the risk of a collision with a pedestrian. Slowing down to marked speeds in school zones will account for a greater reaction time to stop if a child steps out in front of you. At speeds that exceed 30-40 km/hr, there is a greater likelihood that driver will make a mistake in judging the time required to stop for a pedestrian. A reduced speed will reduce the chance of severe injury in the event that a collision does occur. Even small reductions in vehicle speed can yield significant reductions in injury risk. It is estimated that a pedestrian struck by a car travelling at 50 km/h is eight times more likely to be killed than someone hit at 30 km/h – (Parachute, 2016).
It is important to teach your children pedestrian safety, no matter how old they are. As soon as you begin walking with your children you should teach them pedestrian safety, and teaching should carry on throughout their lives. Use the 3 P’s – Pause, Point and Proceed. Continually teach your children to use these strategies to safely cross the street.
Education should be based around your child’s development; this will change dramatically from seven to 14 years of age. Encourage your children not to wear their earphones while crossing the street. As a pedestrian you should always be aware what is around you, and earphones can impede hearing and judgement when it comes to motor vehicles and trains.
As youth start using cellphones it is crucial they are aware of their surroundings when crossing the street. Preliminary research conducted with children 10 and 11 years of age at the University of Alabama in Birmingham shows that children have an increased risk of being struck or nearly struck by a vehicle by up to one third while using a cellphone – (Parachute, 2016).
Pedestrian safety is compromised when distracted by a cellphone conversation or texting. During this distraction, individuals are less attentive to traffic, they leave less time between their crossing and the next oncoming vehicle and they experience more collisions and near misses with oncoming traffic. Individuals (including adults) who are constantly looking down at their phones to text while crossing the street are vastly unaware of the traffic patterns around them and compromise their safety.
Pedestrian safety is important for all ages. When reminding your children this September, take a look at your own habits when it comes to cellphone usage and crossing the street safely and let’s all help make our roads injury free.
Andrea Klassen is a Health Promotion Facilitator with Alberta Health Services. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].