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As many schoolchildren complete their exams and the end of term comes ever nearer, motorists can expect to see more children walking or riding their bikes on the roads. Along with the usual challenges we face on our streets, this creates additional factors to consider. This is what you can do to ensure all road users, young or old, remain safe during the holiday season.
Always drive more cautiously when sharing the road with children. According to a study conducted in the USA, children up to the age of 14 find it more difficult to safely cross a road as their perceptual judgment and fine motor skills are still developing. The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, recommends increasing the space you leave around children and slowing down when you spot them on the roads.
“If a child misjudges the distance between themselves and you and darts across the road in front of you, you will have more time to slow down and take evasive action. For children riding their bikes, leave a larger block of space around them when passing to account for riders who may not be as confident or for the greater chance of a young rider making a mistake,” advises Herbert.
Drivers should also not take any risks when driving in residential areas where children are more likely to be. “Pay extra attention when reversing out of your driveway. Resist the urge to go faster than the speed limit in these areas. Go even slower when going around corners as this is where you may come across children unexpectedly.
“Another instance where caution is advised is when going around public transport. Even though the speed limit may be 60km/h, slow down to 30km/h to be prepared for children who may pop out from in front of a bus or taxi without warning. Parking lots are another potential hazard with children. They are more difficult to see between parked cars. Children may also perceive parking lots as less dangerous because of lower speeds but these areas are actually one of the most common sites of accidents.”
More children on the roads should also provide more motivation to avoid distracted driving. A few seconds adjusting your radio or talking on your phone is all it takes to miss a child on the side of the road who is about to run across. Even as you wait at intersections be aware of children who may be trying to cross the road and who may not know how things like three phase traffic lights work. Do not remove your attention from the road for a second.
Let’s start next year with all children returning for their new school year. “Wherever children may be on the roads, always drive with extra caution. Children are not accustomed to judging speeds, others may not be used to being pedestrians and all children may struggle to make safe road decisions. Motorists need to drive in a way that accounts for this,” says Herbert.
Tips for the parents
If you know your child will be on the roads, you can do the following to help keep them safe:
- Where possible do not let them walk or ride on busy roads
- Dress them in bright or reflective clothing
- Brush up on their road safety skills
- Get off public transport with children in front of you
- Always encourage children to be aware in parking lots and to not run
- Teach them to be overly cautious when crossing roads