Children are at risk near roads because they are curious and keen to explore, so teaching them about road safety is important. Even so, an adult should always supervise children under 10 near driveways, cars, roads and car parks.
When to teach your child about road safety
It’s important to start teaching your child about road safety as early as possible. You can start when they are in the stroller by talking to them about cars and showing them how to wait until the road is clear.
Young children’s brains are still developing so they may not be able to fully understand the dangers of roads. They will not be able to work out where sounds are coming from and can’t judge speed.
As they grow older, it’s best not just to teach them the rules. You need to teach them in real life situations.
The more practice your child gets around real roads and traffic, the better. For example, when you’re walking with your child along the pavement or to the shops, talk to them about finding a safe place to cross and how to look for cars.
Childcare centres and preschools will usually reinforce road safety. It’s a good idea to make sure you use the same messages they hear at school.
What to teach
The basic rules for children are: “Stop, Look, Listen and Think”.
- Stop one step back from the kerb
- Look continuously in both directions
- Listen for the sounds of approaching traffic
- Think whether it is safe to cross and keep checking until safely across
Teach your child to always use footpaths, but to be very careful when crossing driveways. Point out safe places to cross the road (such as at a pedestrian crossing). Explain what the signs mean and that at a pedestrian crossing, they need to wait for the 'green man' to appear before they start to cross.
You should also explain to your child why it's important to use the door next to the footpath when getting out of the car - never the door that opens on to the road.
What else you can do
It’s important to always set a good example when you’re near roads and traffic with your children. Always try to cross at a pedestrian crossing, hold their hand, and put your phone away before you cross the road.
You can keep your child safe around roads by making sure they always have a safe place to play and are supervised at all times. Keep them with you when a vehicle is being moved and make sure they always wear a helmet when they are riding a bicycle or other moving toy.
In the car, your child should always use an approved child restraint - put this in the back seat if possible. Take children with you when you leave the car. It is dangerous - and illegal - to leave children in cars unattended.
Kidsafe Australia has more information about car and road safety, including the Elmo Stays Safe Road Safety Campaign and App. You can contact your local state or territory office for more information on road safety for children.
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Last reviewed: January 2019