Roughly 70,000 people suffered injuries in pedestrian traffic accidents in the year 2010 alone, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Before you send your kids out to play in the neighborhood, walk to school or take a stroll around town, teaching them the value of observing traffic safety rules is key. From basics, such as looking both ways before crossing the street, to more advanced tasks, such as reading and understanding what traffic signs and signals mean, your child needs to know the rules of the road long before she can drive.
Take your child outside, discussing traffic safety while you're actually on a real street. Practice basic safety rules as you tell your child what they are. For example, walk up to the curb, tell your child to stop, stop at the curb, look both ways to ensure no traffic is approaching and cross the road together.
Show your child where to cross the street. Point out the crosswalk lines, telling him that he should always cross in the appropriate place. Instruct your child to never cross in the middle of the road or run in between parked cars to get to a crosswalk.
Point out traffic signs and signals, and tell your child what they mean. Show your child some traffic signs, such as an electronic Walk/Don't Walk signal. Ask her to look at the pictures on the signs and tell you what she thinks they mean. For example, the School Crossing sign has a picture of an adult and a child proceeding across the street in a crosswalk. Talk about the words and the colors on the signs, such as a red Stop sign, or a yellow Yield one.
Make your child aware of drivers. Let him know that he needs to watch out for cars, as some of them may not watch out for him. Tell him that he should never assume that a car will stop for him simply because the driver has a Stop sign, or a red traffic light.
Engage in a hands-on street safety learning activity such as a coloring sheet -- the NHTSA has printables featuring crossing the street safety available for free from its website -- or have your child draw what she thinks the rules of the road are.
Participate in a pedestrian-related activity together such as the International Walk to School Day.
Take your child to talk to the local school crossing guard or a police officer about traffic safety. The expert opinion may have more of an effect on your little learner than you do.
Never assume that your child knows the rules of the road or how to behave while on the street. Provide your child with the basics, even if they seem way too simple to not understand.
Don't frighten your child. Although understanding that staying safe while crossing the street or playing outside is essential, don't paint a graphic picture of what can happen when things go wrong.