Okay so this sounds a little weird at first, but hear me out here. The ancient Romans gave the world bloodsport combat, the gladius sword, the concept of the Senate, amazing sculptures and of course, the brutality and magnificence of their empire. But, they also gave us roads. They built the first road networks mankind has ever known. In fact, Europe still uses these roads and millions of commuters get to work on roads that are essentially built on top of the ancient network. Even to this day, we recognize this achievement and make roads and travel by road, a big part of our lives. However, we also have a culture of driving accidents, horrific injuries and also, freedom and liberty that the road provides us. How can we teach our children to enjoy, but respect the roads and warn them of the dangers too?
What roads actually are
Firstly, being a good parent is all about patience and explaining concepts to our kids. And maybe “toddlers” is a bit of a stretch, but I think sometimes we teach safety with fear and maybe there’s a better way. Safety taught via education has to be better than fear tactics right? Don’t start off by explaining how to use the road or what it’s for. Start off by exploring what roads are. They are structures that are placed in the ground, that smooth out the earth and allow for quick efficient travel. They are used to get to different locations around the countries we live in and the world. Roads allow civilization to spread but they also allow homes and towns to connect back to larger cities as well. This not only allows for the expansion of society but for the contraction of society in terms of living. Case in point, many people from rural areas, will use the roads to travel to their job in a major city.
Who would have thought that road networks could be so complex right? Well, this concept will be fun for your children to learn as they get to see, the thought process behind roads and therefore, the reasons why they are built. The next time your toddler looks out of the window to see workers building or repairing a section, it might make more sense to them, as to why those men in funny hats are hammering into the ground and making so much noise! Those residing in bigger cities…you feel me on that. Pretty sure that same stretch has been under construction for what, five years? But I digress.
Why we use roads
Human beings use roads for multiple things.
- To get to work
- To drive to holiday destinations
- To meet friends
- To enjoy a sporting event
- To go shopping
- To clear our minds
- To get away from our busy lives and enjoy some time alone.
There are so many reasons why we use the roads, but how do you explain this to your kids? You have to show them that without roads, we couldn’t enjoy life as we do. This is why there are so many cars on the road. If your toddler is concerned about the world in terms of climate change and pollution, this type of explanation will illuminate their mind as to why we use the roads.
How we use them
Road safety is complex and it’s not going to stick in their minds, unless you show them that the things that are on the road are dangerous. We use roads with cars, buses, trucks, bicycles, motorbikes, coaches and more. Things are moving pretty fast because roads are smooth, long and they allow for vehicles to build up speed.
The roads of old were cobblestone and they were overengineered. They made horse carts jiggle and vibrate, which slowed down the driving because it was uncomfortable to go faster. However, this is not the case anymore and cars go pretty fast on the roads, anywhere from 30mph, 55mph to 80mph.
Now that your toddler knows why and how roads are used, we can move onto road safety. A child will now be able to understand why cars are whizzing by, not paying close attention to them and it’s because the people in cars and other vehicles, need to go meet people and go to work. So, already, subconsciously we have accepted that the pedestrian is the abnormal thing in the road network. Roads were not designed for people on foot. So, we need to realize that in terms of safety, we are the most vulnerable ones.
There is an easy way to cross the road but there is more to road safety than just crossing.
- Avoid going close to the edge of the pavement, as some cars will be driving too close or trying to avoid a larger vehicle in the oncoming lane. They could tag your child and hurt them badly.
- It’s a good idea to have just one earphone in while walking down the street, so if anything dangerous is about to happen, your toddler will hear it and can take evasive action.
- As good practice, your toddler should be told to look behind them every couple of minutes if they’re walking down the street. It will alert them to any bad drivers and also, remind the drivers that they are being heard and watched.
- If a toy they are playing with falls into the street, do not try and retrieve it until the road is clear. Treat the edge of the pavement as if you’re stepping into hot lava if you proceed. So stop and think!
Okay, we’re into the meat and bones about road safety, the crossing section! There is a very easy way to cross the road but there are also some unique things to think about too. So let’s cover the basic method of crossing that all toddlers can remember.
- Stop! As soon as your kid gets to the edge, they have to physically stop. Just stand for a second and allow others to see you upright.
- Look! Look both ways, but also, back and front. Essentially, your eyes should go in a cross motion. Left, right, forward and back.
- Listen! If you cannot see cars coming, that doesn’t mean that they are not! Cars can be coming down the road but your vision is blocked due to a large vehicle parked in your line of sight or perhaps a large tree obscuring your vision. So listen for cars that might be coming.
- Go! Edge forward and then slowly pick up speed. You’re done! You’re now on the other side of the road. Feel free to click your heels or something.
Being in an accident
This one’s for parents and the kids. When you are involved in an accident, you will go through the motions.
- First will be sensory overload. Your hearing, smell, sight and sense will be on edge. You will feel as if everything has gone into slow-motion because your brain is thinking so fast.
- Then the need to act. You will feel as if you need to get away from the accident. This can result in panicking and trying to run away, which can cause you to injure yourself further.
- Next will be the shock. Suddenly, your adrenaline is too much for your body and you begin to freeze up and your body begins to shut down.
- If you haven’t suffered from the shock, you are in good shape. The pain if there is an injury might begin to slowly creep up on you so remaining calm is key.
Once the acute phase is over over you might start to wonder about other things. What could you have done to remain more calm. How could your toddler have been more protected if you can change something. And your toddler might think, how they could have helped you or tried to get out of the car by themselves, despite being in a car seat. These are all things you shouldn’t have to experience.
Healing and fixing
That last part of road safety is the healing process. Take your time to do some biomechanical exercises and regain your strength. You will also want to fix some of your things, such as the car seat. If you don’t know Child Car seat Safety laws, you can find out by contacting a lawyer. You may need to replace the car seat but there are some specific circumstances where you don’t have to. For example, if your car was in an accident but the airbags didn’t go off. You won’t need to replace your car seat. If no one in the car was injured, you won’t need to either. If you question it, best to replace.
Allowing your child to receive some counseling if they want it, is a good idea. The sudden impact of the accident can play havoc on our mental health as our brain keeps replaying it over and over. it can make children afraid of cars and this trauma can last into their adulthood when they are trying to learn how to drive. So, treating it now when it has occured, is the best course of action.
Road safety is fun and can be really exciting when you think about road networks and their history. Your child will understand why roads exist and be interested in how they could be used in future. But overall, understanding leads to respecting the roads, and that is the best way for the entire family to stay safe!