Keeping kids safe outdoors as the world and the roads reopen

Adults and kids are returning to their regular routines, as most states have reopened. Adults will have to return to work which means more cars on the road. A summer routine for kids usually includes riding bikes, going to the playground, and playing in the neighborhood. Road dangers increase as more people spend time outside. Safety measures must be taken to ensure that this happens.

Many children travel the world unaware of road safety. They aren’t aware of the dangers that lurk on the streets, especially when there are more cars. As the world reopens, parents and their community can work together to ensure that kid road safety is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Road safety should be emphasized to drivers in areas with pedestrians, cyclists and other groups.

Road hazards and dangers

Children don’t always pay attention to the outside world, especially while playing. If they don’t know the rules of the road, children can quickly run after toys and into the streets. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) collected 2019 data for car crashes leading to child death, showing that 16% of kids were pedestrians and 4% were on bicycles. Children between the ages 1 and 3 were at highest risk of being pedestrians, with 25%. Advocates for kid and neighborhood road safety can help reduce the likelihood of child-related deaths due to accidents. Encourage everyone to follow road rules.

How to advocate for safety in your neighborhood

  1. You can start a neighborhood watch program, or join an existing one. A group of neighbors can be coordinated to reduce crime, increase neighborhood safety and help local law enforcement provide education and valuable resources.
  2. You can be a safe driver around your neighborhood. You should check to see if children are playing near your vehicle and follow the posted speed limit. Be aware of your surroundings and follow safe driving habits.
  3. Your children should be familiar with the area. You can take your children on a walk around the neighborhood to help them find their way home. Your children can help you identify unsafe areas and places that you would prefer them to play.
  4. Set boundaries for your children and limit their freedom. You should make sure your children are aware of areas to avoid such as abandoned properties or dangerous places where they might get hurt.
  5. Keep track of where your child is located. Some parents might opt for smartwatches or smartphones with tracking capabilities. Your children should ask for permission before they leave your home. They should also know the time and contact information to reach you.

Road safety

The driver is responsible for ensuring roads are safe for pedestrians, particularly those who may be walking, biking, or playing nearby. A study conducted by the University of London concluded that kids 15 and under have trouble perceiving how fast a car is driving when going 25 mph or greater, unless they are looking at the approaching vehicle directly. Due to kids not always having a high awareness of vehicle speeds around them and instances of distracted driving, especially in young drivers, not following road safety rules can end critically.

Tips for drivers

  1. Respect the speed limit and slow down when you see children, pedestrians, or bicyclists nearby.
  2. Turn off your phone and pay more attention to the streets and the surrounding area, particularly in the neighborhoods.
  3. Keep your eyes open and alert while behind the wheel.
  4. You should have a safe driving plan. This includes taking breaks if you are on a longer drive, making adjustments before you drive the car, and stopping to drink, eat, or make a call.
  5. Be familiar with the rules and follow them. For example, always signal and maintain a safe distance of three seconds between your car and the vehicle or person in front.

Safety on the streets and in driveways

  1. Before you drive off, make sure your children aren’t playing with or under the car. Each week, at least 50 kids are backed over by cars in the U.S. Most victims are younger than 2 years old. More than 60% of backovers involve large vehicles such as trucks, vans, and SUVs.
  2. Be aware of pedestrians, skateboarders, and bike riders who may be nearby. Avoid speeding in residential areas, and be cautious when driving through neighborhoods.
  3. Make sure your children have safe play areas that aren’t in close proximity to moving or parked cars. To avoid encouraging other children to play in the driveway, teach your kids that it is a safe zone and that toys are not allowed.
  4. You can hold your children’s hand if they are young and keep an eye on them as they walk on driveways, in front of moving cars, and on sidewalks.
  5. Make sure your children are properly supervised whenever someone visits or leaves your home. Because toddlers want to wave hello or wave goodbye to someone who is coming or going, they are more vulnerable to street and driveway mishaps.

Road conditions that could prove to be dangerous

Even with the best driving skills and awareness, there are situations that can pose a danger to children’s safety. You can make quick decisions to ensure that the road is safe, even when the conditions aren’t.

Inadequate signage

Proper signage could be lacking in many places, including on roads and highways. Crosswalks could not be placed where they should be. A sharp curve could have no warning sign. Or, a dangerous intersection may need a traffic light to avoid accidents. You can navigate safely by being alert and paying attention to your surroundings.

Aggressive drivers

Drivers who are aggressive and dangerous can put other drivers, pedestrians, and children at risk. These drivers may speed through the neighborhood or exhibit signs of road rage such as cursing, making obscene gestures, trying to force a driver off the road or ramming or sideswiping another vehicle.

How to report a driver or road issue

It doesn’t matter if you need to report an aggressive driver or dangerous road conditions, or request signage or a light, it is crucial to know where to go.

Whom should I contact?

  1. State roads and highways: The Department of Transportation (DOT), in your state, is a good place to start. The DOT is responsible for traffic regulation, maintenance, and safety enforcement. You can use contact forms in some states, but others will require you to call or email the DOT to report an issue.
  2. Roads in cities and counties: Each state has a road maintenance or service division that can be contacted for driver and road issues. The best contact method depends on where you live or work. There are online forms, phone numbers, and email addresses that can be used to report or track problems.
  3. Private roads: Contact the homeowner’s association or individual who owns the road to report any issues. To find out the owner, you can contact your state’s DOT. You may need to contact a Right-of-Way Enforcement Officer if it’s an easement issue or right-of-way problem.

What should I say?

  • Report dangerous road conditions Please describe the road hazard and the reason you are reporting it. You might request a warning sign or crosswalk for roads that are frequently walked.
  • Request a sign/signal: Please provide the names of the cross streets at the intersection to request a sign/signal. Please provide information to the contact person if you have witnessed an accident, a collision with a bike, pedestrian or car. It is possible that you will need to give the information by phone or in writing. Be prepared with specific information about why you recommend installing a sign.
  • Report aggressive drivers: Do not engage with aggressive drivers and stay clear of them. Call your local police station using the non-emergency number (311), or a three-digit emergency number. Please provide the exact location and description of the vehicle, driver, and the behavior that you observed. Please include the license plate number as well as the direction they traveled in if possible.

Outdoor safety

Outdoor safety is essential for all children, regardless of age. Children should be able to follow established rules and know how to respond in different situations. These tips can help children get home safely and prevent injury to pedestrians or death.

  • Walking: Children should be taught from an early age how to look left, right, and then again left before crossing the street. Children should observe traffic signals and cross the streets only at crosswalks. They should also cross at street corners. Children with limited perception should be able to walk together and avoid distractions such as cell phones while walking alone.
  • Parks and playgrounds: To minimize injury, children should be closely supervised in parks and playgrounds. Children should be dressed appropriately and avoid necklaces, scarves, or other objects that could catch on the playground surface, or cause strangulation. It is important to be aware of hazards and to teach children all ages how to avoid pushing or pushing others.
  • Avoid talking to strangers: It is important to use appropriate language when warning children about strangers. If someone tries to pick up your child or talk to you, create a safe word for them. You can use the buddy system with a trusted friend or sibling to ensure your child doesn’t walk or talk to strangers alone and that each one is aware of any potential danger.
  • Outdoor protection is essential: Children playing outdoors are more likely to get an allergic reaction, sunburn, or be bitten by bugs. These elements should be protected and children should know when to seek help or go inside.
  • Injuries: Children can often get a scrape or bruising from playing outside, even if they are dressed appropriately. Make sure your child is aware of where the first-aid kit is located at home. Also, make sure that it is always stocked. In case of emergency, have a plan. You should also have important phone numbers readily available.

Safety technology for children

An app is available for just about everything. Some apps or devices may also get you a discount on your car insurance.

Distracted driving apps should be avoided

  • True Motion – This free app tracks the entire family’s driving habits and how well they practice safety road rules, sending alerts on where each family member is and details about the trip.
  • Drive Smart – DriveSmart provides metrics on driving habits, certifies driving skills and allows users to earn coins to exchange for rewards.
  • SMARTwheel – This smart steering wheel cover provides real-time feedback using lights and tones to help you drive smarter and tracks your driving habits so you can view your trip data later.
  • Distracted Driving Device – This Bluetooth-enabled docking device provides access to GPS and music, but prevents the car from starting unless the driver docks their phone in the glove box.
  • Truce – This app restricts the use of distracting apps and phone actions in certain contexts, such as driving.

Apps for Child Safety

  • FamilyTime Premium – This app works with most devices to limit screen time, provide GPS tracking, monitor calls and text messages and more.
  • Kaspersky Safe Kids Premium – Kaspersky works with both iOS and Android to offer GPS tracking, geofencing, alerts and internet monitoring.
  • AngelSense – Created with autism safety in mind, this GPS tracker can be attached to your kid’s clothes or backpack and offers updates and virtual fencing to keep your kids safe at home, school or while playing in the neighborhood.
  • Relay phone – This smartphone without a screen operates similarly to a walkie-talkie and has nationwide coverage, limits distractions by offering one-touch communication and has GPS tracking to keep kids safe and parents connected.
  • Find My Kids – This free app is offered on iOS and Android and notifies you when your kids enter and leave set locations, keeps a record of travelled routes, allows you to hear your kids’ surroundings and has an SOS option that shares their exact location when they are in danger and cannot call you.