Kids and traffic

What you need to know to help keep our kids safe

The City of Guelph Operations Department, the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit and the Guelph Police Service, are promoting Pedestrian Safety. Through public awareness, our goal is to raise the importance of Pedestrian Safety as a public safety issue and increase everyone’s awareness of pedestrians on our city streets. Public safety is everyone’s responsibility. Children are particularly vulnerable. We wish to emphasize the importance of looking out for children, who may not have the ability to make safe judgments about traffic. Why do kids lack good judgment about traffic?

  • Generally speaking, children under the age of nine don’t have the ability to make safe judgments about traffic because they aren’t developmentally ready to make good choices on their own.
  • By age eight, children’s brains have reached the stage of development that allows them to be more responsible and to make good judgments. By the time they reach age nine, most children have matured enough to be able to walk and ride safely near traffic. It’s important to stress that age nine is just a guide; some children may not be ready until later.
  • Proper supervision for children under the age of nine should be ensured at all times. Children should be accompanied by adults or older children whenever they cross the street or ride their bikes.

Did you know?

  • Young children can’t see out of the corner of their eyes as well as adults can.
  • They aren’t able to use information from their peripheral field of vision.
  • The direction of various sounds (e.g. a siren) is often difficult for children to determine. They may turn the wrong way searching for a sound.
  • Children’s sense of perception is different than that of adults. They may think large cars move more quickly than small cars, or narrow streets are less dangerous than wider ones.
  • Young children can’t pull together all the pieces of information they need to act appropriately in an emergency situation. Even if they have been taught the rules of the road, their brains can’t process multiple pieces of information or a complex chain of events.
  • Children lack a sense of vulnerability. They may not realize a car can seriously hurt or kill them if they are struck.
  • Children have trouble judging how fast a vehicle is coming towards them or just how far away a vehicle is.
  • Although children may have been taught how to cross the street safely, they can be easily distracted and may respond impulsively.
  • Children may believe grown-ups will look out for them. If they can see an adult driving a car toward them, they might assume the driver can see them too.
  • Children’s small stature causes visibility problems for both them and for drivers who may not see them.

Tips for Parents

  • Remember number nine. An adult or older child should accompany children under nine when crossing the street or when riding bikes.
  • Teach your kids when they are young. Teach your children the rules of the road  and start when they’re young! By the time your children reach age nine and can act responsibly, road safety rules will be second nature.
  • Teach your children through play. Make learning fun and you?ll make it memorable. Play act with toy cars, set up obstacle courses in the park, or point out safe and unsafe behaviour as you walk, ride your bikes, and drive.
  • Be a good role model. Follow the same rules as you want your child to follow. Don’t cut across the street in the middle of the block if you want your child to learn to cross at the intersection.

Based on information from Safe Kids Canada 2004. For more information, visit or the Safe Tips hotline 1-888-SAFE-TIPS for further reference.