Educating Child Pedestrians

Children, especially males age 5 to 9, are at high risk of being hit in a pedestrian crash. Young children are frequently struck in the neighborhood streets near their homes. Being struck by a car is a leading cause of death and injury to children.

Children lack skills and experience that most adults take for granted. Remember, children are not mini adults!

  • Children can be impulsive — they don't stop to think of the safety of a movement.
  • Children often have little or no sense of danger.
  • Children have a difficult time judging the speed of approaching cars — indeed, they may not even be able to tell if they are moving.
  • Children pose with police officers duringa  pedestrian training event.The task of training children on pedestrian safety is complicated by their level of development. Pedestrian safety messages such as "look left, right, then left again" seem simple enough. Children can learn to recite rhymes and may move their head in both directions — but it's not enough. The real message (that older children and adults realize intuitively) is "look left, right, then left again to see if it is safe to cross now, at this location. Keep looking while crossing. If vehicles are approaching, figure out how fast they are going and if there's enough time to cross. If not, wait until one or both go by." This is a complex task for young children.

    To show significant results in improving child safety, educational programs must provide messages and teach skills appropriate for the level of development of the children they target.

    Key Messages for Child Pedestrians

    The National Center for Safe Routes to School Online Guide's section on Education is an excellent resource for educating children about pedestrian and bicycle safety skills. The section describes key messages for children, including:

  • Pedestrian safety skills
  • Personal safety
  • Health and environment benefits of walking

  • The site also features key strategies for educating children, including:

  • One-time instruction (such as an assembly)
  • Classroom or physical education lessons (e.g., stand-alone, integrated, or comprehensive curriculum for every grade)
  • Parent involvement strategies for at-home education
  • Structured skills practice (e.g., class-based lessons, after-school programs, or one-time events)

  • Pedestrian Safer Journey

    Pedestrian Safer Journey helps educators, parents and others who care about pedestrian safety to get the conversation started with children and youth. Three videos — one for each of three age groups: 5-9, 10-14 and 15-18 — accompanied by a quiz or discussion and an educator's resource library can be used as an introduction to pedestrian safety skills or to augment a comprehensive curriculum.

    The age-appropriate videos, which are available in English and Spanish, address picking the safest places to walk and cross streets and the importance of being alert.

    Helpful Links

    Walk to School Day - The website offers a history of Walk to School Day, child pedestrian information, the recent addition of Bike to School Day, resources for planning events, and online registration.

    Preventing Pedestrian Crashes: Preschool/Elementary School Children - A .pdf with information for parents and caregivers on pedestrian risks for preschool and elementary school children.

    Pedestrian Injury - Pedestrian injury remains the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 5 to 14. This Safe Kids website works to prevent child injuries of all types and provides safety tips, data, and ways to get involved in a community.

    Kids and Cars - This website is full of resources in English and Spanish to help reduce the prevalence of children injured by motor vehicles.

    Streets in America are Unsafe and Unforgiving for Kids - This article, by the FHWA Pedestrian Safety Roadshow, provides a case study of unsafe streets, efforts to make America walkable, information about the vulnerability of child pedestrians, and suggestions regarding how to make communities safer.