It’s never too early to teach your children about road rules and road safety. Walks to the park, bike rides around the neighbourhood, or even rainy days stuck at home are the perfect time to turn building road smarts into a fun family activity.
Why teach road safety
We’ve come a long way from a simple “look both ways before crossing the road.” Nowadays streets are full of complex signage, bicycles and vehicles, and a combination of crosswalks and sidewalks. It’s important to learn basic road rules and awareness guidelines to stay safe. Kids of all ages can learn how to act predictably and safely on roadways to work in harmony with other traffic and road users.
But there are other reasons to teach your kids road safety than simple protection. You’ll be helping them:
- Build confidence. With the right understanding of the rules of the road, children don’t have to feel fearful of motorists or busy roadways. Outings on foot can become exciting and fun, instead of worrisome or scary.
- Build independence. It might be hard to imagine younger kids heading off to school or a friend’s house on their own, but they will someday. Help them feel self-reliant and ready to venture out into the world on their own, knowing that they are fully prepared for safe travel.
- Grow into safe drivers. Learning the basics of traffic flow helps children to not only anticipate problems and be safer pedestrians, but also helps them be more aware of how cars and bicycles are expected to move – giving them a natural affinity for road laws and helping prepare them for a lifetime of safe driving.
What skills to cover
Teaching your children the basics of street smarts includes a basic set of skills. When you’re out and about, you’ll want to talk about:
- Road signs – how to recognize them, and what each one means.
- Crossing the road safely – including how to handle different types of intersections, lights, and crosswalks.
- Being a safe pedestrian – on all types of roadways, including those without sidewalks or curbs.
- Safe cycling – essential signals, bike lane use, and how to respect pedestrians.
- Focus and concentration – the importance of always keeping your attention on the road when travelling, and how to avoid distractions.
Whether you’re walking, cycling or a passenger in a vehicle, look for opportunities to draw kids attention to the way the road works and how you are moving, acting, and following the rules to keep everyone safe.
How to make it fun
Make road safety education fun! Let your children “drive” from the backseat on your way to the pool, have a road sign scavenger hunt while walking around the block or discuss the role of a crossing guard as you walk to the park.
We have plenty of handy activities and resources to help! Our RoadSMARTS 4 Kids page has puzzles and fun family activities that you can print or turn into a lively game on the way to another adventure. Sign up for our biweekly newsletter, too, to get fresh ideas for family fun delivered directly to your mailbox.
We can all have a safe summer when we know our Road Smarts!
Earn your Road SMARTS
If you would like to get more involved in road safety, we invite you to take the #RoadSMARTS pledge. By taking the Road SMARTS Pledge, you Support Making All Road Travel Safe, which can help improve road safety for everyone. When road behaviours change, accidents can be reduced. For more information and to take the pledge for free, visit https://www.ottawasafetycouncil.ca/road-smarts.