MAYVILLE, N.Y.:- With warmer weather on the way, more kids are outside to play, and more children are at risk of being hit by a moving vehicle. The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services and the Chautauqua County Traffic Safety Board are encouraging parents to teach children important pedestrian safety skills, and reminding drivers to be extra alert as they travel through neighborhoods and near parks and playgrounds.
Every year in the United States, thousands of children are injured and hundreds more are killed after being struck by a motor vehicle, which leaves permanent scars on victims, families, drivers, and the community. New York State Health Department data shows that each week in New York State, an average of 62 children between one and fourteen years of age are treated at a hospital because of a pedestrian-related injury; 12 of them are injured severely enough to require a hospital stay.
“We want to remind the community that these tragic injuries and deaths are 100% preventable,” said Chautauqua County Commissioner of Health and Human Services Christine Schuyler. “We are asking parents to teach and role model safe pedestrian behavior, and reminding drivers to slow down and remain extra-alert, particularly where children may be present.”
One of the most important things to teach a child, according to Schuyler, is to never, ever run into the road. Not after a ball, not after a pet, not because their friend is on the other side. Darting out into traffic is the leading cause of pedestrian injuries for children ages one through nine in New York State.
When walking near traffic, supervise young children closely and be sure to hold their hand when walking along a street or in a parking lot. It’s important to make sure that children have safe places away from traffic to play.
Toddlers are difficult for drivers to see, putting them at greater risk of being backed over by vehicles. Drivers can avoid backing over children by walking around their parked vehicle before getting in, and making sure all children in the area are in sight before backing a vehicle out of a driveway or parking space.
Most children under age 10 are unable to judge speed and distance of oncoming vehicles, making them vulnerable to getting struck. Children at this age should be taught to only cross with an adult or older child.
Kids learn by watching adults. Parents can model safe pedestrian behavior such as crossing at a crosswalk or corner, stopping and looking left-right-left before entering a roadway, and using the sidewalk. If no sidewalk exists, then walk facing traffic, and observe all traffic signs and signals.
Older children should be reminded to look left-right-left again before crossing. At intersections, teach children to make eye contact with drivers to be sure they are seen before crossing. Encourage kids to be more visible to drivers by choosing bright clothing and reflective gear, and remind them not to use mobile devices while walking or crossing streets.
Drivers play an important role in keeping children safe. Be on the lookout for children playing, biking, or walking who may run into the street unexpectedly. Driving more slowly in areas where kids are likely to be present will give you more time to react should a child dart in front of your vehicle. Every five mile-per-hour reduction in speed greatly reduces the risk of pedestrian fatality.
“Only by taking the time to teach children to be cautious around traffic, and by practicing better driving habits, will we see a reduction in these senseless injuries and fatalities,” said Schuyler. “Working together, we can make a difference and save lives.”
For more information, please visit www.safeny.ny.gov.