Afraid of Your Kids Crossing the Street?

Me too. Traffic is scary. But we do have to teach our kids this crucial skill, and then we have to let them master it in the real world. To remember just how much children are capable of, street-wise, check out this 11-year-old in Libya. — L.

30 Responses

  1. I thought you might find this interesting. I know 20 years ago I was raised thinking of the world as a pretty safe place, and allowed my free reign to play outside and learn in a free range. Perhaps the trend towards coddling and overprotecting children has something to do with our perception of the crime rate. Turns out these are, in fact, misconceptions.

    http://mobile.oregonlive.com/advorg/pm_29233/contentdetail.htm;jsessionid=369DACCC269CFF5E12728FD195D395E3?contentguid=EKwzqsRm

  2. Impressed by his bravery, skill, and social conscience, but worried for him as I worry for all road workers.

    I teach my children traffic skills and let my four-year-old cross our quiet street herself under my supervision (I stand on the other side while she goes). She knows how to cross not holding my hand and how to take responsibility for it.

    Still, kids forget. 😦 I’ll never forget a little girl at my elementary school who was disabled for life (in a coma) because she impulsively jumped into the street to get a brush her brother tossed out there, teasing her. The kids, 9, 8, and 6, had been walking to school together for years, and crossing the street.

    It is amazing what kids can do but I think it’s ironic that you’re always pointing out the danger of cars, and then pointing to this. I hope they get their traffic lights working SOON!

  3. My worry is not so much that the children around where I live do not know how to cross a road but the many of the drivers choose to use their mobile phones (illegal in UK unless hands free), “forget to signal that they are turning left or right, go through a red crossing light or race down the road like a formula one driver. These are all things I have to look out for on my daily walk to work.

  4. “They are so young. We should encourage them. That’s why Libya is fine.”

    Except for the adults causing violence on the streets, that comment should say it all to the rest of first worlds.

    I still see grown ups that don’t know how to cross the street. ie. walking (casually) on a red light as cars hit their brakes to avoid taking them out. And instead of running across, they just look give the finger, and keep walking across casually. These are adults. I know kids that tell us what to do as we cross the street.

  5. @ Wendy: we can’t control what dumb things others do. But we can teach our kids how to cross the street. And not just your basic “red light, green light, look both ways”. But also speeds of cars, distances, and timing. It may sound complicated for them, but it isn’t. I’ve been teaching my 4 year old nephew about crossing the street (especially when there is no crosswalk or lights). I have an exercise where I let him tell me when he thinks it’s safe. Of course I don’t let him run off if I don’t think it is, but he’s getting pretty good at judging distance and speed, thereby learning timing. Also helps with his punches and kicks. Yes, I teach him some Muay Thai and Jits.

  6. @ Joanna: That’s one of the things we’ve been always saying here at FRK. There is much more access to news than there were 20 years ago. And for each media company it’s all about ratings. So they will ALWAYS report anything and everything. Unfortunately, there are now too many people that hang on every word the media says. Then they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on. Paranoia these days aren’t a result of actual facts. They are the result of perception, so once fear takes over, it becomes an infection that spreads. Within themselves, then others. Much like OCD. No real reason why people are obsessed with what they do, and they can’t help it even though they know it’s doing themselves harm, as well as those around them.

  7. What a great kid. He’s doing a job I wouldn’t want to handle and it looks like he’s doing it well.

    I’ll admit I’m dreading next school year when my two oldest will be going to and from school on their own. We’ve had a lot of talks about continuing to watch cars even when you think they’ve seen you and are letting you cross the street because we’ve seen a few go when it looked like they knew to wait. But they’re old enough and have been crossing the quieter local streets for some time.

    Can’t do that with them this year – my son’s in kindergarten and must be picked up by an adult. It’ll be 1st and 4th grade next year, so I’m pretty sure I get to just authorize walking and they can go.

  8. I am. I am scared.

    When i was 4 I saw my best friend Sarah, also 4, being scooped off the road (in the tiny village we… well, I, grew up in) into the back of an ambulance. She was hit by a bicycle. Not a car, not a motorbike. A bicycle. A teenage boy came flying down the hill on his bike and struck her as she crossed the road. My big sister was there, her big sister was there. She flew into the air and down, and I don’t know how long she remained alive… Her mum lived just right across the path from me and I knocked at the house daily “Is Sarah coming out today?”
    “No, darling, Sarah is at the hospital still”
    When my mother found out that I was knocking on the her mum’s door she told me off, and then one day she told me that I was definitely, definitely never to call asking for Sarah again. Sarah was not coming back now and her Mum needed me to be quiet…
    There was a police officer in our living room and he was asking my sister to go over and over what had happened (she was 11) and I just couldn’t quite take it in that someone could ever not come back. So, I continued, every time I saw her Mum, to say, “Is Sarah going to come to play soon?”

    As I got older that scene of that little girl in the road and her white white hair spread out on the road has repeated in my head. But it never changed my daily habits, I was never scared to cross the road, or play ball in the road with the other kids. but that has changed since my own kids were born, and I have been terrified.
    I have been so scared of my kids crossing the road, I have spent so much time going on and on to them about road safety and even then not trusted them. But I am changing, slowly. And trying to put it all in perspective. I can not let one freak accident ruin my kids enjoyment of life. That accident already ruined the lives of so many.
    i let my girl walk down to the postbox the other day, I followed behind slowly, but always letting her be just out of sight, forcing myself back away. i just wanted to rush down and grab her hand and march her across the road myself, but I have taught her and taught her about road safety and it was time for her and me to let her do it by herself. she came back up the road towards me, with the biggest grin and a skip in her step and repeated how she had watched for traffic and listened and crossed safely and put the letter in the letter box all by herself, and.. she was just radiant! looked about a foot taller. I had to grin then : )

  9. I just, like yesterday, started letting my 9 year old ride his bike home from school. He has to cross a major 4 lane street to get there and since I’m picking his sister up at school anyway, I just followed him and made sure he made it across the street safely.

    This morning, he asked to ride again, but wanted to do it by himself. I, with much fear, allowed him to go but I reminded him that a crossing guard would be at the busy corner and he needed to pay attention and listen to directions and it would be fine.

    After I got the little one in the car, we drove the route he would have taken, because I’m little bit of a paranoid freak. I got to the busy corner about the same time he did, only to find out that the crossing guard wasn’t there! I was ready to leap out of the car and assist the crossing when my son hopped off his bike, pushed the button to walk, waited for the signal and walked his bike across the street, where he hopped on and took off the rest of the way to school!

    He’s a good kid but he doesn’t typically handle the unexpected very well. I was super proud of him for not panicking and for doing exactly the right thing and being safe. So apparently, all those lessons how to cross the road must have sunk in.

    Now, if the ones about “not hitting your sister” would take root, I might write this parenting thing off as a success! LOL

  10. Crossing the street is definitely one of those life skills that should be taught early and constantly reinforced. There’s also a difference between crossing streets in small towns than in the city. We live in a small town now and the way our subdivision is set up the only people that drive on our streets are people that live here. To get out you have to go to a main street that goes over the tracks and connects to other main streets. This street gets busy and can be impossible to get onto when driving but almost everyone stops for pedestrians trying to cross the street.

    Now, I grew up in Chicago and crossing the street there is completely different. Cars don’t stop. Heck, they don’t care if you have the right of way and are crossing at the crosswalk on the light. They will run you down, honk at you, try to nudge around you…whatever. And that’s just in the residential ares. Crossing the streets in the loop is a completely different beast all together (lights have no meaning downtown for pedestrians). I learned to cross busy 6 lane city streets when I was 11. You have to cross one direction of traffic and then wait in the middle (usually without any kind of median…just standing on the line hoping no one hits you) before crossing over to the other side. Crossing the highway in a small town is 10 times easier than a street in the city. Definitely a skill you learn.
    I’m glad we live in a small town now, though. My kids are free to roam around and there is almost no traffic. They play in the street most of the time just running around, we have a basketball hoop at the bottom of our driveway, kids ride bikes in the street and just walk in the street (some of the roads don’t even have sidewalks so you have no choice). I don’t even worry about it. I’ve told them to stay on the sidewalk if it’s an option but they can play in the street if they are careful, even my almost 5yo.

  11. My daughter is 11 and walks to school on her own. For other routes, where there are larger streets to cross she does so at a crosswalk with a light. It’s not that complicated. That being said, she also knows to make eye contact with approaching drivers, as she knows I have been struck by a car while crossing the street. You can’t assume drivers are paying attention. So she makes eye contact and assures herself they know she’s there, and then she crosses.

  12. Jeniffer, great advice. This is so important to assume drivers are not paying attention – after all someone just posted new twit and they need to check it right that second, right?
    My bf’s son is going to be 9 soon but he has helicopter mother. He doesnt know how to cross the street, he just follows the adult. He doesnt look at all. Last time i had to stop him last second otherwise he will just walk right into the car.
    I remember when we were kids we all had to walk to school and learned very quickly how to cross safely.

  13. I grew up in a town with three streets. Literally, three streets. We didn’t live on the main highway, but the road in front of our house was the only way to get to the next town over. As a result, there wasn’t a lot of traffic, but what there was tended to be going much too fast for a residential area.

    My best friend lived on the other side of the street and a few houses down, and I would frequently walk to his house, or he would walk to mine. Our parents made sure we knew to look both ways, and not cross the street if there were any cars coming. One day, at breakfast when I was about 6, I noticed our cat was headed to the field across the street–but first she stopped and looked both ways, and paused because she saw a a car coming. I was delighted that she knew road safety.

    Anyway, the point of this story is–if a cat knows how to cross the street safely, than it shouldn’t be an issue to teach our kids. Granted, there’s a HUGE difference in growing up in the hamlet that is my home town, and, say NYC, but to my mind, the more traffic, the more danger there is, the more important it is to make sure kids (and cats) know how to deal with it.

  14. I walked across the street with about 11 2nd-5th graders today. It is hard for me to let them lead because I am responsible for these kids. They all know how to cross the street. What I don’t know is if any of them have ever crossed the street on their own. I tend to doubt it. I’m not sure what the solution is here. Is it possible that I could trust them to lead? I would have to teach this. The kids are not used to leading and being responsible. Kinda scary if you ask me. I am guilty of holding them back out of my responsibility.

  15. Is it any surprise? I’m already teaching my (almost) 2 & 4 year-olds to do this.

    Yes, even my not-quite 2 year-old son, I DO NOT hold his hand when he crosses parking lot sections & smaller streets. As I said when he wasn’t yet walking: the minute he’s walking, I’m not carrying him ANYWHERE. And I don’t.

    And when we cross streets and navigate parking lots, I coach him & encourage him on how, without even holding his hand–except in more extreme situations. Naturally I keep an eye out while doing so, ready to scoop him up if need be. My (almost) 4 year-old basically can handle all situations herself.

    They don’t learn otherwise.

    LRH
    Blackberry Bold 9000

  16. The content in your link claims their copyright expired and the story is no longer available.

    New link: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/cb-JyXvXedQ_nbT1uNjJ4fp2AO51AsKLyM0/11_year_old_directs_traffic_in_libya/

    Good for this kid. I can’t believe people don’t let their kids cross streets… but I come from a world of Street Hockey… I live near downtown in a large Canadian city, and I love seeing the kids playing out in the street all summer. Apparently I should go talk to their parents… to congratulate/ thank them.

  17. Brittany, thanks for the new link.🙂

    To anyone using Firefox – the link may not work in that browser, it doesn’t in mine. It does work in Internet Explorer, however.

  18. Can no longer watch video at either address.

    Weird the issue of traffic safety came up here though, because yesterday we had two incidences.

    One, the child did everything right (crossing intersection with a green light), but the driver didn’t look. The other, kids came out into the road further than they should have (were goofing around), but the driver was going way TOO FAST on a residential street. Thankfully, nothing bad happened in either case.

    I have a dream — someday awareness will be heightened; drivers will notice that they are in potential killing machines, and lower their speed and raise their attentiveness accordingly.

  19. @Chris – Things like that will happen, to children and adults alike, regardless of what we try to do to prevent them. Fate rolls the dice, and sometimes we lose. We will never be prepared for, nor be able to control, all eventualities. The best you, or anyone, is able to do is prepare your kids for all of the eventualities that are likely to occur and that they can control – a suddenly appearing teenager on a bike is not one of them.

    @Tuppence – I share your dream. It scares the everloving crap out of me, the way drivers behave in the city. I don’t even start to cross until the first row of cars coming up to the intersection have stopped, because drivers have a habit of charging up to the intersection, then braking fairly sharply to stop. I can’t just walk out and throw it on chance that they will stop, because if they don’t, I know that I won’t have time to get out of the way. Unfortunately, this is the real world, and drivers do suck, therefore you need to teach the kids to use their eyes and their judgement before crossing – even if they have right of way, there’s nothing physically stopping them from getting run over, and that’s the important thing that they need to look out for.

  20. As I understand it, adolescence generally expands to fill the time society allots to it. For instance, many men these days play video games well into their 30’s. The U.S. culturally allows (encourages) a long adolescence. We get what we encourage.

    @Larry – Does your “Blackberry Bold 9000” automatically reveal its make to the world in every communication you send from it? I know it seems like a strange question, but I really am curious whether you typed that part out. I’ve never seen that tagging in a blog comment before.

  21. The road safety officer came to visit my son’s school last month. My son is 9. The rso asked for a show of hands as to “who is allowed to go to school by themselves”. When a few children raised their hands, the rso apparently said: “your parents are being irresponsible and I would like you to go home and tell them that you are not allowed to go to school by yourselves until you are in year 6 (the last year of primary school in the UK) and aged 11. Now, I know children misreport things quite often, but I have reason to believe that this is what happened in this case.

    It seems to me that it would have been unacceptable to criticise parents in front of children at school in this way not so long ago and also that whether you were allowed to cross the road by yourself or not wouldn’t come into the equation. The emphasis would have been firmly on preparing children to take the risks that we all have to take sooner or later rather than on simply telling them to avoid them.
    I would like to know what people think about this because I was pretty outraged.

    I’m not denying that the risks of road death and injury are real and present and that in this respect they are different from those of stranger abduction, etc. I also know that child pedestrian deaths have decreased in the past decades, and I’m assuming that this is partly because children are allowed out on their own less than they used to be.

  22. Traffic and distracted drivers is my biggest fear in parenting. I live a block away from a hospital so my child constantly must navigate the streets with the most distracted drivers in the world. The employees are not a problem but someone on his way to visit his father in ICU after a major heart attack is not paying attention to small children crossing the street. That combined with the 50,000 college students on the road make me fear the streets of my town.

  23. The video link you provided has expired as their copyright privelege has expired. But you can find it here now http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8361121/Child-directs-traffic-in-Libya-to-help-topple-Gaddafi.html
    (I didn’t see your original post – but making an educated guess it is the same video.)

  24. @Myriam — you are absolutely right to be outraged. I would strongly encourage you to find out if this was indeed what was said and, if so, to write a letter to the rso (and his supervisor) making the points that you’ve made here: 1stly, is in not on to criticize parents to their children and also, saying children should not being allowed to go to school on their own till they’re 11 is ridiculous. You can say this in a nice, polite way. Rso officer indeed! What the heck does the school need him for if he’s only telling the kids — don’t forget to hold mummy or daddy’s hand when you cross the street, wee little ones (to 9 year olds!). Way to pass the buck guy.
    Please really, consider reacting to this. If we “enlightened” ones do nothing about this kind of nonsense, then I don’t know who will.

  25. I saw the video and tears literally came into my eyes. I wasn’t thinking about traffic safety or allowing my kids to cross the street, I was thinking ‘what a wonderful young man to see a need in his society and fill it instead of expecting an adult to do so’. I got to wondering about my kids. Would they have the gumption to go out there and fix something like that that was broken? Whether or not to allow street crossing was minor to me compared to raising a child that actually goes out of his way to fill a need.

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  27. Road safety concerns us all – not just parents of children.
    The farther we move along into living and raising children in public realms that are not devoted to our vehicular love affairs with stuff that rolls, then fewer children will rock as a result.
    High volume traffic locales make this difficult, and especially when traversed by high-octaned panic-attacked technologically “textured” drivers.
    It isn’t enough to actually navigate, steer and otherwise control a vehicle anymore. One must now “multi-task.” (cutely avoiding the issue of their own distraction – deadly denial, what?)

    So I can imagine delightful processes priming a kid in the joys of pedestrian traffic management.
    Of course all the same rules apply, as they always did.
    But I think one does their kids a huge favor by preparing them for what they are really up against.
    (don’t trust any rolling vehicle as far as you can throw it.)

    The differences in the way we drive, collectively – compared to forty years ago – is probably what has made this the issue it is today.
    Take back the streets for the sake of kids’ independent pedestrian mobility?
    Absolutely!!!

  28. I regularly give my children tests. I “forget” something back at home and ask them to run back and get it and meet me on the other side of the street as I keep walking. I wait for them on the other side and give them a chance to do the safe crossing drill. Sometimes they get it…sometimes they don’t…so I talk more, show more and tell them that they can’t go out without me until they can manage to do that crossing safely every time I ask it.

  29. Joanna – I know a lot of cities are tweaking the crime stats to make them appear lower. Nashville just got in trouble with it and the police chief abruptly resigned before it could all come to light. Seems they were changing up how crimes were reported so that it would appear that the crime rate was dropping. After they went back to the “old method” of calculation – you know, so it would be apples to apples and not apples to oranges – they confirmed what all of the citizens knew all along – crime had drastically increased. From what I understand, with the old method, if a person was killed in a robbery, there was one strike on the robbery list and one strike on the murder list. With the new method, they only put a strike in the column that held the greatest penalty – in this case, chalk one up for murder. Previously, if a person was shot, taken to the hospital and later died, it was counted as murder. With the new system, they had to die within a set amount of time (like 48 hours). Well, with all the medical equipment they hook people up to, it’s rare for them to die within that period of time unless they are pretty much DOA. Also, they were taking them to the local “General Hospital,” who apparently had orders to keep victims of crime on the machines for that length of time before the families would be able to remove them.

    On the street crossing thing…. I have a 10 year old. Some days I don’t think she’ll ever get the street crossing bit. She knows what to do and how to do it, but she tends to get locked in on something in the distance and that’s all she sees.

  30. […] I was watching this, I was thinking about a post written over at Free Range Kids; click here for the actual post, and here will get you the video Lenore is talking […]

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