A good teacher must know the rules; a good pupil, the exceptions. ~ Martin H. Fischer
Children have always been told that their parents are the first teachers. Have you ever heard that before?
Road safety is important and essential for the healthy development of our children. They are very vulnerable road users who, without tuition and guidance, are likely to adopt bad practices and take unnecessary risks.
Therefore, parents, being the first teachers as we discuss the nurturing of children, must play an active part in the child’s development. Even before they can use the road parents must, by their good example, teach children their first lesson. Certainly, they are not aware of the enormous risks of using the road without being shown and told by an adult like you. Their safe use of the road and ultimately, the building of awareness in later life, begins right at home.
In the police Traffic Beaters reports daily on television and radio we hear suggestions on how best to use the roads. In addition, personnel from The Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance along with the Barbados Road Safety Association convey messages to enhance our best and safest way to use the roads.
The purpose of this article is to show parents what they can do about road safety and to reinforce that they are the first and best teachers during infancy. The quality of things you teach children has lifelong consequences, and it is important for them to get off on the right foot.
As parents, we need to know the contents of the Green Cross Code which is a guide for everyone on how to cross the road safely.
Factors to consider when about to cross the road:
Pedestrians should take these actions before attempting to cross the road:
1. Think first – find a safe place to cross and then stop.
2. Stop – stand on the pavement near the curb.
3. Use your eyes – look all around for traffic – right, left and right again.
4. Wait until it is safe to cross and walk straight across the road.
5. Arrive alive – keep looking and listening while you cross the road.
Children travelling in vehicles
Parents need to adopt the pointers above and teach them to their children and be an example for them. When you lead by example, children will follow. So be the best example possible.
Additionally, parents should:
1. Always ensure that their children use the child restraint in the vehicle.
2. When transporting babies note that the safety seat should be facing the seat in the front rather than facing the dashboard.
3. Do not allow children to stand between the front seats because should there be a need to apply brakes urgently, the child would not be thrown into the dashboard or through the windshield.
The bicycle requirements
Parents should acquaint themselves with what the law requires for all bicycles and cyclists.
1. The bicycle must be registered and issued with a number.
2. It must be equipped with a bell and brakes.
3. The cyclist must wear a helmet.
Waiting or disembarking from a vehicle
It is also important that parents teach their children about:
1. The dangers of playing around parked vehicles.
2. What to do after disembarking from a public service vehicle.
3. The danger of disembarking from any vehicle on the right side in the path of oncoming traffic.
4. Joining a queue to board buses and minibuses alike and desist from pushing.
Be a role model driver
A parent is expected to be a role model since children live what they see and learn what they hear. It is therefore necessary to adopt positive behaviours, for example:
1. While driving you must comply with all road signs.
2. Teach children the meaning of the road signs.
3. Avoid all acts that lead to engaging in road rage.
4. Drive within the speed limit always.
The driver as a parent must avoid being distracted while driving. He or she must be aware that passengers are road users too and therefore a level of care has to be exercised. There are certain actions to avoid whilst driving.
Reaching for something in the glove compartment or in their bag or to recover anything that has fallen.
Attempting to control a child who is not restrained.
Making or receiving calls whilst driving.
Changing a radio station or CD.
Eating or drinking while driving.
Any form of grooming.
Removing your hands from the steering wheel or your attention from the task of driving.
Looking away at other persons along the road.
Parents, do you change your driving habits from on a dry road to a wet road? It is a defensive tactic to develop in order to maintain control as you drive. The vehicle’s road holding capabilities will be affected and you may not be able to stop effectively when you need to. So, I remind you to reduce your speed and so you would be in a better position to stop safely. Remember when you drive through deep water you should squeeze your brakes before proceeding.
Walking the road
As you walk the road remember the pointers mentioned in the Green Cross code above. Additionally:
When crossing the road between parked vehicles stop near the road edge and check again looking right, left and right again before crossing.
Where traffic lights are positioned, parents should press the button/ indicator and show the child what to do.
Wait for the lights to change or the flashing man to appear before crossing.
Teach them what to do when the lights are in flashing mode.
In the home environment
In the home environment, you may be responsible for planting gardens and pruning the hedges. A few suggestions I will offer:
As the hedges grow, not only look towards their beauty but control their growth. You must be able to see and be seen over them from a sitting position in the vehicle.
If your choice of plant hangs over the road (like a palm), cut it back because pedestrians passing may be forced into the path of oncoming traffic.
If your guard wall is a picket fence, make sure it is not close to the road to obstruct the view of approaching or emerging vehicles. Such obstruction could be the cause of an accident.
Finally, as you read and find that any of these scenarios highlighted are worthy of note, or cause you a change of heart, then you can make a difference. Do not put it off until later. Act now, whether you learn the Green Cross Code, how to correctly disembark from a PSV or trim that hedge, you are indeed playing an active part in making the roads safer.
Now I have offered you a greater understanding of how to help your children, let us get started.
Leon Blades is a former police officer and Road Safety advocate