Heads-Up on Teens and Pedestrian Safety

By the time your child reaches his teen years, you’d think you no longer have to worry about him safely crossing the street. Think again.

The teen pedestrian death rate is twice that of younger children and accounts for half of all vehicle-related pedestrian deaths according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

pedestrian safety tips

They have years of maturity and physical development over the younger kids, so why are twice as many teens dying from vehicle-related pedestrian injuries? About half of those injuries may be attributed to “distracted” walking.

According to a 2014 Safe Kids Worldwide study of 1,040 teens, half reported crossing streets while distracted by mobile devices. Of the teens who had actually been hit or nearly hit by a vehicle:

• 47 percent were listening to music
• 20 percent were talking on the phone
• 18 were texting

“Texting while walking is not a good idea, but headphones are especially distracting,” said CHOC Children’s Community Educator Amy Frias, who is also the Safe Kids, Orange County coordinator. “Headphones put kids into their own zone when they should be more aware of their immediate surroundings.”

Additionally, more teens who had been hit or nearly hit reported crossing streets in risky ways. They were more likely to attempt crossing from the middle of the street or from between parked cars, instead of at an intersection or using a crosswalk.

Safe Crossing at Every Age

Unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth-leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 19 in this country. Since opening in January 2015, the CHOC Children’s Trauma Center has treated pedestrian injuries in eight children ages 3 to 12 years. The most common times of day these injuries occurred: before school and in the early evening.

Whether your child is 6 or 16, these important safety tips could be lifesaving:

Put down all the devices — Insist your child pay full attention whenever walking on sidewalks or roads.
Cross only at intersections and crosswalks — Make eye contact with the driver before stepping into the street.
Be as visible as possible at night — Light-colored clothing helps make it easier for drivers to see your child.
Instruct teen drivers to check behind their cars before backing up — Be extra careful and take a moment to make sure a small child is not playing or walking behind your vehicle.
Set a good example — Children under age 10 should cross the street with an adult. When walking with your child, explain how you always follow traffic safety rules, too.

The Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s is home to Orange County’s first pediatric-focused trauma center. Serving children ages 14 and younger, our specially trained physicians, surgeons, nurses and respiratory therapists are available around the clock to provide immediate intervention and care for traumatic injuries.

Download this pedestrian safety tip sheet.

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5 Child Pedestrian Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

As pedestrians, children are often at great risk of injury for both their small size and lack of experience with traffic rules. Further, pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 19. Before your child walks off to his friend’s house, be sure to check out pedestrian safetythese reminders from Safe Kids Worldwide, and talk to him openly about the dangers for pedestrians.

1) Talk to your kids about how to be safe while walking. It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
2) Teach kids at an early age to put down their devices and then look left, right and left again when crossing the street. Be a good role model and do the same.
3) Children under 10 should cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, it can be hard for kids to judge speed and distance of cars until age 10.
4) Remind kids to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and to watch out for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach them to never run or dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.
5) When driving, be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones and be on the lookout for bikers, walkers or runners who may be distracted or may step into the street unexpectedly.

For more child safety and health tips, go to choc.org/health.

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