We have all had it happen before. We are driving along, minding the speed limit and the cars around us, when out of nowhere a child darts into the road in front of us. Reflexively, we hit the brakes hard and jerk the steering wheel in the opposite direction, missing the child by what seems like inches. The child is fine, and often none the wiser, but nonetheless our hearts are racing long after the incident.
Children make up a large number of pedestrian injuries and deaths, and for many reasons. They do not fully understand the rules of the road, including right-of-way rules, and may not understand that in certain scenarios cars cannot see them. Children under the age of 10 also have a very difficult time judging speed and distance, leading to poor decision-making when timing their crossing.
Using Extra Caution in these Fatal Four Scenarios
As drivers we cannot control what any pedestrians do, especially children, but we can be on special alert in areas where children may be, such as near parks and in school zones. There are also four very common scenarios where children are often hurt where special vigilance can pay off:
- Street corners and intersections. Many children are taught to cross only at crosswalks or corners, but they do not understand that the crosswalk cannot keep them completely safe. They see a sign that says they can cross, so they do—regardless of what traffic may be doing. Keep an eye out during turns onto side streets or at intersections for youngsters eager to dart across the road.
- Parking lots. Admit it—even as an adult you can risk being run over by cars as you walk through a busy parking lot. There is a lot going on and visibility is poor, so be sure to navigate through these congested areas slowly in case there is a child trying to do the same!
- High-risk vehicles. Certain vehicles, like school buses and ice cream trucks, are magnets for children. Unfortunately, these large vehicles also are excellent at hiding children that could run out in front of you. Even if you do not see the telltale flashing lights and mob of kids, navigate slowly around these buses and trucks.
- Reversing. Whether you are backing out of your driveway, a parking spot, or turning around on a narrow road, many younger kids can easily escape your view when they are directly behind you. Very young children may not know how to identify your reverse lights, so be sure the area is clear before backing up.
This winter, as families flock to Sarasota and school is out of session, be sure to remain vigilant for little pedestrians. If you know anyone with young children, be sure to spread the word about keeping their little ones safe by sharing this article on social media!