How to teach your child about road safety

Teaching your child about road safety both as a pedestrian and as a passenger is incredibly important and ensuring youngsters are safe on the road is something which can be taught at an early age.

For this article, we spoke to bloggers to find out their top tips on the most effective ways to teach children all about road safety.

Safety as a pedestrian

Stop, Look, Listen

Child waiting to cross a road

There have been many television campaigns over the years which portray the same message of ‘stop, look, listen’ before attempting to cross a road.

Many people will be familiar with the cartoon campaign depicting hedgehogs trying to cross the road while a version of the Bee Gee’s song Staying’ Alive plays in the background. The Government-backed road safety campaign was aired during children’s prime time television and aimed to teach youngsters how to cross a road safely.

James from You Have To Laugh, told us that his family uses the simple, yet effective ‘Stop, Look, Listen’ method of explaining road safety: “There's still no better road safety lesson than the old-as-time adage ‘Stop, Look, Listen’.

“We encourage our son to take the lead when crossing a road with him. We always give him a reminder if he needs it and pull him back if he's made a mistake, but the more he gets used to taking control of the situation the better he gets at it.

“We have become confident that he'll stop at roads when he is riding his scooter to wait for us rather than just blindly ploughing into the road, so it's working. We used to take a while to cross the road to make sure he checked every possible direction too. We got him to point to every car in the nearby roads that may potentially come our way and asked him to work out which direction they were travelling and how we would know if they were going to come our way. That way it gave him a better understanding of what's nearby and what could happen rather than just focusing on what was right in front of him.”

Encourage your child to learn the Green Cross Code

The Green Cross Code was created by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). The code aims to raise awareness of pedestrian road safety and it’s short and helpful tips can be taught to children to help them be aware of what’s around them before attempting to cross a road. RoSPA teaches pedestrians how to cross a road safely with five easy to learn steps:

  • Find a safe place to cross
  • Stop just before you get to the kerb
  • Look all around for traffic and listen
  • If traffic is coming, let it pass
  • When it is safe, go straight across the road.

Jo from A Rose Tinted World told us that even when her daughter was in a pram, she would talk to her about the Green Cross Code: “I would always talk about what we were doing as pedestrians, and discuss how we would cross safely. I think that it is important to lead by example, so choosing a safe place to cross, and being constantly vigilant in looking and listening whilst crossing has always been foremost.

“Once she got old enough to walk, we did have some reins that she wore on the way to nursery, but I insisted on holding her hand too. Small children do tend to try and run away a little, and so the reins gave me that little bit of security that even if she let go of my hand, she could not run into traffic.”

Jo still encourages her daughter (who is almost four-years-old) to hold her hand when they are crossing the road: “When crossing I still talk about each step to crossing roads safely, except now I also ask her what she should be doing. To try and get her to learn and understand the importance of road safety. She gets a lot of praise when she tells me why she is looking both ways and listening well.”

Use toy cars to help teach toddlers about road safety

Child playing with a toy car

Teaching youngsters about road safety can be done at an early age and using toys and arts and crafts can be a useful way to show preschoolers how to cross a road.

Brake recommends teaching age-appropriate messages about road safety and encourages people to cover the road safety ABC and adapting it for the age of the child.

  • A is for Awareness
  • B is for Behaviour
  • C is for Choice

Brake suggests that children as young as two can be taught A and B but advises that under-eights should not use roads without an adult.

To help teach a toddler about road safety Brake says: “Make Play Dough wheels and roll them around. Pick up a toy car and spin its wheels. Wheels mean that traffic goes fast and goes much faster than people who are walking.

“You can also create a giant poster of children’s handprints and write ‘We hold hands’ at the top and display it where it can be seen. Also, play what can you hear and what can you see games.

Record some road sounds, or find them online such as a car, fire engine, motorbike, bicycle bell, and a pedestrian crossing beeping. Play these to the children and show them a set of matching pictures. Encourage children to guess the noises when you play them, matching them to the pictures you show, and saying what makes what noise, for example, ‘The blue car goes brum brum brum, The big red fire engine goes nee nah nee nah' etc.”

Louise from Mum and Son Adventures told us that she believes teaching children about road safety can be done at a young age: “Talk to children about roads, cars, crossings and how to be safe around all of these things. I think it is good to practice with toy cars and teddies at home and learning through play is one of the most effective ways to get the message to stick with children.”

Karen from The Next Best Thing to Mummy told us that she also believes encouraging children to learn about road safety from a young age is important: “I believe that children are never too young to start learning about road safety, when I was a registered childminder, the little ones sitting in a buggy would press the button on the pelican crossing, if they could reach.”

Explain the meanings of road signs and traffic lights

Green traffic light

When you’re out and about it is worth explaining what different road signs mean and how traffic lights work. Children love exploring so give them the chance to take in the world around them during road trips and explain what different things mean, you could even turn this into a game of I Spy.

This is something James does to teach his children about road safety: “Ask your child to work out how the traffic lights work and which cars are allowed to go in which direction when the lights change. Or talk about how roundabouts work when you get to one so you can make a game of working out which car gets to move next. Even simple games like counting cars of a certain colour can be useful in helping your child to pay attention to the roads and vehicles around them. Every little helps, and the more they notice the better.”

Safety as a passenger

Wear your seatbelt

Two children in child seats holding hands

Staying safe is also an important lesson for a child to learn when they are a passenger in a vehicle as well as when they are a pedestrian.

Making sure children know to keep their seatbelts on during the duration of a journey is important as Karen from Really Missing Sleep explains: “As a passenger I made sure my children realised the importance of the seatbelt, never unbuckling it until I told them it was safe to do so.”

Buckle Up in the Back was created as a helpful guide to teach people about the importance of wearing a seatbelt: “Many countries began realising the importance of seatbelts in the 60s and started creating laws in order to enforce people to start wearing them.”

It wasn’t until 1983 that wearing front seatbelts was made a legal requirement in the UK to enhance in-car safety and 1991 for all rear-seat passengers to wear seatbelts. Seatbelts have come a long way since the typical lap belt which was common before the three-point, self-adjusting and retracting belts we use today. Ford cars have had new safety features incorporated into their designs for many years and one of the latest innovations are rear inflatable seatbelts.

Exit the car from the door near the kerb

Trying to get your children out of the car and away from traffic while juggling bags and other belongings can be stressful.

Jo has a way to help make getting in and out of the car safer and easier: “We have always set a clear rule that she alights and exits the car on the side closest to the kerb. She realises that cars go past very fast and that it is dangerous to get out of the door into the road, which is why we keep the door and window locked on that side. By helping her understand why she must use these rules and involving her each time we use the car, she has come to understand that this is what we must do to keep her safe.”

The more children learn about road safety when they are younger, the greater their understanding and appreciation of potential hazards will be when they’re older.