Teaching children pedestrian safety

Children need help to learn how to cross the road safely. And there’s a lot you can do as a parent or carer to support them.

You can use your walks together to practice the Green Cross Code. Your good habits crossing the road safely can become theirs.

And you can help older children to learn how to assess risk, judge speed and understand consequences especially when getting ready for walking to school.

Lead by example on road safety

Children will copy what you do, so try to avoid stepping into the road without making it obvious you’re checking it’s safe to cross first.

If you can demonstrate how to do the right thing, it will help children get into good habits.

Introducing younger children to pedestrian safety

Younger children need lots of hand-holding and supervision – the street can be a distracting place for them to be, with lots of sights and sounds.

Encourage young children to get into the habit of holding your hand or you can use walking reins if you want added security.

You can reinforce this message of holding hands by making ‘hand in hands’. Together draw round your hands on card and cut them out. Put your child’s ‘hand’ on top of yours and attach them at the top. You could decorate them too.

Ask questions while you’re out walking near roads to help them understand simple ideas like ‘fast’ and ‘slow’.

You can talk to young children about road safety, but don’t expect them to remember the rules for themselves just yet.

Learning the Green Cross Code

Younger children find it difficult to judge the speed and distance of traffic – so they don’t know when it’s safe to cross the road.

You can start teaching children the Green Cross Code from age five, encouraging them to stop, look, listen and think before crossing the road.

It can be a fun activity to teach children while you’re on the school run or a walk to the park.

Focus on the core steps of crossing the road safely:

  • Think! First find the safest place to cross.
  • Stop! Stand on the pavement near the kerb.
  • Look and listen! Look all around for traffic and listen.
  • Wait! Until it’s safe to cross. If traffic is coming, let it pass.
  • Look and listen again! …
  • Arrive alive!

Remember younger children won’t always remember road safety rules, especially if they’re distracted or spot a friend across the road.

Helping older children to “think road safety”

Accidents peak around age 12 when children are starting to make independent journeys, such as walking to school alone.

More than half of serious accidents happen between 3pm and 7pm, coinciding with after-school hours.

The age at which children are old enough to walk to school on their own depends on many things such as environment, distance to school, and their confidence levels.

Before a child walks to school alone for the first time, you can help them prepare by rehearsing the route there and back.

Encourage them to sit down and plan their route to school. They can map out what route to take and talk you through it. They can think about which friends they might travel with too.

You can help build their confidence by practising the route together or starting with easier routes and building up to the school route.

You can also try talking to them about what they would do if faced with the unexpected.

Focus less on instructing them on the rules of the road and more on listening and asking questions to encourage them to think for themselves:

  • Where are the safe places to cross the road?
  • What should they do if they see their bus and they’re on the other side of the road?

Devices are a major distraction, so talk to your child about putting them away and having earphones out or off while crossing the road.

Be bright, be seen

Visibility is a key issue all year round, all day round, whether children are walking or on their bike. However, over the autumn/winter months, it is especially important as the school day can start and end in twilight. Remember:

  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective clothing or accessories after dark
  • Always choose routes and cross at places that are well-lit
  • Where possible, cross the road at a pedestrian crossing
  • Remind older children who travel by themselves about road safety and the additional hazards in Autumn/Winter
  • Devices can be a major distraction, so encourage your child to put them away and take any headphones out while crossing the road
  • Drivers should be especially careful around schools and mindful of their speed when visibility is poor

Learn more about road safety

Find out about cycle safety and in-car safety.

Download our road safety fact sheet – Safe around roads.

Visit our road safety hub to download our road safety fact sheet, our activity sheets for children and – if you work with parents – our road safety session plan.

Explore road safety teaching resources for children from the Think! campaign run by the Department for Transport.

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