Road Safety and the Child Pedestrian
During recent years the road fatalities among pedestrians in South Africa have remained at 35-40% of the total road fatalities. Many socioeconomic factors are contributing to the horrific fatality rate among our pedestrians. To change where we live and whether we have adult supervision is something we cannot address but raising awareness and offering safety advice can go a long way to preventing some of these fatalities!
On the Arrive Alive road safety website we have devoted much attention to raising awareness on pedestrian safety. This is, however, something we need to do continuously and seek more effective ways of education and communication.
In this section, we would like to discuss child pedestrians and how we can make them safer. Pedestrian deaths among young learners are heartbreaking for every parent and teacher and any initiative to make our learners safe should be well supported.
The Child Pedestrian and Safety Awareness
Parents, teachers and caretakers can assist our child pedestrians with important safety information. We suggest information on the following most important aspects:
- Not walking on the road but the pavement. If there is no pavement, to walk as near to the edge as possible, facing the oncoming traffic.
- Crossing roads at designated areas such as traffic lights and other intersections, pedestrian bridges, painted zebra crossings, areas of scholar patrol etc.
- Offering safety advice to child pedestrians at and around schools and benefitting from the scholar patrol system.
- Giving safety advice for children using school transport on embarking and disembarking buses, minibuses etc.
Where to Walk and to Cross the Road
Where there is no pavement:
- Walk as far as possible to the right-hand side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.
- You are surely out of the way and can see vehicles long before they are close to you.
- You cannot be surprised by something coming up behind you and if anything looks dangerous, you have enough time to step even further away from the road.
Where there is a Pavement:
- When you use the pavement, remember to share the space with others. If other pedestrians must step around you into the street perhaps because you're chatting with friends or shopping on the street, you could cause them to be involved in an accident.
- Controlled crossings are the safest places to cross the street and are usually at intersections with traffic lights or "robots".
- Both motorists and pedestrians must by law obey these traffic lights.
Our child pedestrians should be taught the following:
- Do not cross when the traffic light is red. Only cross when the green man shows and when it is safe to do so.
- When the red man appears while you are in the middle of the road/street, continue crossing; but when you are still on the pavement, do not cross at all.
- Do not cross when the light shows amber/yellow.
- Keep between the solid white lines and watch for moving vehicles.
- Cross briskly to avoid being run over by impatient motorists.
- Beware of drivers turning where they are crossing.
A Crossing Where There Is No Marking
- Where there is no special place to cross, such as in rural areas, look for a straight stretch of road away from sharp bends or anything that blocks your view such as bushes, hills, slopes or rises.
- When you cross, you must be able to see clearly in both directions.
- Pedestrian facilities such as pedestrian bridges are safe to use when crossing a busy road or a freeway.
- Remember that No pedestrian is allowed on a freeway. Use the pedestrian bridge even if it requires you to walk a bit further.
Crossing at A Marked Pedestrian Crossing
- You are always safer at a marked pedestrian crossing, but even then, do not expect drivers to stop for you. They may not notice you or not be watching properly.
- Always remember to stop, look for turning vehicles from ahead and behind you and make sure the traffic has stopped before you start crossing.
- Keep a good lookout all the time.
- Never run-walk briskly.
When Crossing the Road
Jaywalking, which is how some pedestrians choose to take chances by crossing the street, between intersections and through moving traffic, is extremely dangerous.
Educate our children on the following:
- Focus on principles such as “Stop, look right, left and right again”.
- Never cross the road without looking both ways, and check that there is no traffic before crossing the road.
- Do not walk and stop halfway across the road.
- Remain beside the road until both lanes are clear for you to cross safely.
- Look in both directions and listen for oncoming traffic while crossing.
- When you cross, walk briskly but don't run.
- When you intend crossing the street at a bus/ taxi stop, make sure that the straight section of the road you choose is clear of parked or stationary vehicles (which blocks your view). They will block your view of fast-moving traffic that might not see you approaching on time.
- Always cross in a straight line rather than crossing diagonally. Remember, the straightest is the shortest. Crossing at an angle means you are on the road for longer than necessary - and at greater risk of being hit.
Distractions and the Child Pedestrian
Many of the road deaths among pedestrians are caused by pedestrian inattentiveness. This is where, especially our child pedestrians, fail to pay attention to traffic whilst distracted by cellular phones, music, etc.
- To be attentive and avoid distractions
- To use all their senses near traffic and to listen and look for vehicular traffic.
- Be extra cautious when among friends. We often find pedestrians such as children chasing after something, e.g. a ball or hat which might be on the surface of the road.
Be Visible Be Seen
"See and Be Seen" should always be the rule for crossing the street. Too often do we find crashes into the “Poorly visible” pedestrian - those walking on the shoulder of the road not wearing high visibility or reflective clothing.
Advice to our child pedestrians should include:
- Wear brightly coloured and high visibility, reflective clothing.
- Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
- Never assume that you have been seen many disturbances might attract the attention of the motorist, including a low sun in the early morning or late afternoon.
- Be wary. Most drivers are nice people but don't count on them paying attention.
- Establish eye contact with drivers passing parked or stationary vehicles where you want to cross.
- Make sure that they can see you then take all the usual precautions before crossing the road. Even if you are super-alert, traffic moves faster than you - and you will be involved in an accident.
- Vehicles suddenly coming out of concealed driveways are always a danger if you are unobservant on the pavement.
- Always stop and look EXPECT vehicles to drive out of driveways - especially when your view is obstructed by big walls or high objects like trucks or buses.
Advice for our Motorists
Before the Drive
Perhaps the most tragic of crashes is where young children are killed by relatives in the driveway. Too often do we find drivers in a rush, not taking the time to ensure that no toddlers are playing behind vehicles in the driveway!
Keep in mind:
- Safety starts before the vehicle is started!
- Take a moment to observe the vicinity and look behind the vehicle before starting the ignition.
- Scan mirrors and is cautious of young children in your blind spot!
Reduction of Speed in Areas of Pedestrian Activity
- Slow Down in Areas of Pedestrian Activity.
- Do not speed near settlements and residential areas be prepared to slow down.
- Pedestrians can be very hard to see especially in bad weather or at night – Slow down to allow yourself the time and space for a swift response.
- Remain alert and avoid distractions.
- Avoid overtaking vehicles in the vicinity of these settlements and especially in hazardous driving conditions such as heavy rain or night driving.
- Be on the lookout for pedestrians walking at the side of the road with their backs towards you, unaware of your approaching.
- Stop for pedestrians who are on or approaching your side of the road at a pedestrian crossing, even if it is not marked.
- When you stop for a pedestrian in at a crossing, stop well back so that drivers in the other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.
Be Aware of the High-Risk Areas for Child Pedestrians
- Be aware that many informal settlements are situated alongside main roads and that there are often no formal points of crossing or pedestrian bridges.
- Highrisk areas include schools, recreational areas/ sports fields and parks where our young pedestrians learn and play.
- Be very cautious in residential areas – especially where many residents share roads between high walls with sharp corners.
- Be careful near places where buses or taxis appear to stand next to the road passengers might suddenly decide to cross the road!
- Cars stopped in the street may be stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross. Do not pass if there is any doubt!
- When you are turning, you often will have to wait for a "gap" in traffic. Beware that while you are watching for that "gap", pedestrians may have moved into your intended path.
The Blind Spot
During the past few years many schools, teachers, and young learners have benefitted from the sterling work by the Imperial Scholar Patrol initiative and the pedestrian safety information provided to our young learners by trainers from Active Education and the Imperial Road Safety Mascot, Bongie.
By introducing a truck to learners in "real" life they see the size of the vehicle. Also, eye-opening was the fact that the driver can’t see the learners, and how many people think that because of the size of the truck the driver can see everything. The reality is something much different.
It has been a huge eye-opener! The response has been massive from all the kids and adults attending. Few are aware of the blind spot area right in front of and to the side of the truck. Learners would more likely resist running out in front of a stationary truck once they have been made aware of the limited vision a truck driver has to the blind spot right in front of the truck.
The blind spot next to the side of a truck and other vehicles is a high-risk area especially to our most vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Stay attentive to blind spots around trucks and other vehicles.
Be Attentive and Avoid Distractions
Defensive driving includes driving with thoughtfulness!
- Remain alert to what is happening around you.
- Keep in mind that where there is one child there may be several more in the vicinity.
- Where a vehicle is parked next to the road there may suddenly appear a small child from in front of such a vehicle.
Children are safer when they are in the company of parents or adults who show them how to cross the street. In modern society with socio-economic challenges, the high rate of divorce, single parenthood and the absence of parents contribute to a lack of supervision over our child pedestrians.
Keep in mind that:
- Lack of supervision leaves many of our younger pedestrians unattended.
- Our younger vulnerable child pedestrians are too often not supervised & left on their own at the roadside.
- These child pedestrians do not benefit from effective examples through responsible parenting.
It is often up to our teachers and other relatives to educate on the following:
- Kids are small, unpredictable, and cannot judge vehicle distances and speeds.
- Do not let kids play near traffic or cross the street by themselves.
- Kids are small, and drivers may not see them if they run into the street.
- When kids get older, teach them three things to do before they cross the street:
Try to cross at a corner with a traffic light.
Stop at the kerb.
Look right, left and then right again to make sure no cars are coming. [ Vehicles will first be approaching from your right side!]
Public-private partnerships can make a significant contribution to making our roads safer. We are pleased to see that many corporates are throwing their weight, expertise and support behind child pedestrian initiatives. Each one of us can also contribute by setting an example to the children we influence every day!