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.

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. One excellent resource for educating children about pedestrian and bicycle safety skills is the National Center for Safe Routes to School Online Guide's section on Education. It describes who to bring together to educate children (including parents, caregivers, and teachers) and others who need to know about children's needs and abilities as bicyclists and pedestrians (including drivers and neighbors). It also addresses when educational programs need to take place, and how.

Key messages for child pedestrians

The National Center for Safe Routes to School Online Guide's section on Education describes key messages for children, including:

Strategies for educating child pedestrians

The National Center for Safe Routes to School Online Guide's section on Education also addresses various strategies to educate 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)

Helpful links

The PBIC Video Library offers a number of educational videos aimed at teaching children about walking and behaving safely as a pedestrian:
  • Step to Safety with ASIMO: An educational program in which students discover safe and responsible street crossing steps with the help of ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) and friends.
  • Willy Whistle: "Willy Whistle" is a lively, animated character featured in this video designed to teach pedestrian skills for crossing residential streets to children in grades K-2.
  • Walk and Ride - Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety: Important tips for children to stay safe when biking and walking to school(also available in Spanish).
  • Caminando a Traves de los Años: Amigos Para Siempre: Part of the US Department of Transportation's "Walking Through the Years" pedestrian safety program, the video identifies the pedestrian safety risks that children face every day and suggests ways that adults can prevent children from being hit by vehicles.
Walk to School Day
The web site offers a history of Walk to School Day, child pedestrian information, resources for planning events and online registration.
Preventing Pedestrian Crashes: Preschool/Elementary School Children
Provides information to parents 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.
Kids and Cars
This web site full of resources in English and in Spanish to help reduce the prevalence of children injured by motor vehicles.
Streets in America are Unsafe and Unforgiving for Kids
This is an article by the FHWA Pedestrian Safety Roadshow.