‘Boy run over by private school bus in front of mother ' (TNN, Navi Mumbai, Feb 15, 2017)
‘Boy hurt in school cab accident dies’ (TOI, Gurugram, May 04, 2017)
‘8-year-old hit by speeding bike, flung into air, dies on spot. The accident, which took place in Karimnagar district of Telangana, was caught on a CCTV’ (indiatoday.in, Hyderabad, July 17, 2017)
These headlines are not the only ones that mention fatal road accidents involving children. They have been randomly picked from umpteen such headlines. Sometimes children are not only victims of road accidents, they are also traffic offenders causing accidents, as the following headline spells out.
‘1 killed as schoolboy celebrating last exam rams car into pavement in Delhi's Kashmere Gate’ (NDTV, New Delhi, April 20, 2017)
All these raise a very important question - How safe are our children when they travel on our roads?
During the infant and toddler stages, children live sheltered lives under the constant care of their parents. Their tiny world is limited to their homes. But, when they start going to school, their world expands to include their neighbourhood, school, roads and other public places. This is when they are exposed to the dangers on the road, thanks to the chaotic traffic, and their safety becomes a major concern. No matter what mode of transport they choose, no matter who escorts them, their safety is always a matter of worry and anxiety.
Note: We deliberately paused the video after a particular point since we do not believe in showing graphic videos. We really wish the actual sequence also stopped the way our video did; but unfortunately, that was not the case. The little boy lost his life. Who is to blame? Was it the rash bike rider? Was it the boy's mother who didn't teach her child road safety tips? Whatever the reason, the onus is on us, parents, to ensure our children are taught road safety tips very early in life.
Isn’t that appalling? So, what is your role here as a parent? How do you make sure your child stays safe on the road and at the same time does not pose a threat to others’ safety? The first step is to impart the basics of road safety to your child.
Here are 10 road safety rules to teach your child:
Rule No. 1: Interpret road signs – Begin with the basics. Teach your child various road signs and markings, and the meanings associated with them. While you travel on the road together, make it a habit of pointing out to the signs. Begin with the traffic lights and go on to explain the boards displaying various road symbols. You can also use YouTube videos, short films or pictures to explain these concepts. Setting up a sand tray showing roads with traffic lights and sign boards will be a good educational tool. Your child should not only be well-informed about these signs but also adhere to the rules.
Rule No. 2: Ride bicycles carefully – Teach children that bicycles (and motorbikes, when they are old enough to use them) are meant only for two and not more. You should first set the example here. Overloading a vehicle can upset the balance and result in accidents. While riding, tell your child to follow lane discipline. He should stick to his lane and not keep changing lanes. One thing most children love to do is to ride in a zigzag manner with wild abandon – discourage this strictly.
Rule No. 3: Say ‘no’ to using the mobile – Whether you are driving or walking on the road, speaking on the mobile is a big ‘no-no’. Ingrain this lesson in your child early on. Again, practise what you preach.
Rule No. 4: Never ‘jump’ traffic lights – Most of the time, people tend to either zip their way past traffic lights as they are about to change, or do not heed the lights at all. This is one major cause of road accidents. Teach your child, if she is riding her bicycle to school, to never do this.
Rule No. 5: Cross the road with caution – Instruct your child to cross the road carefully.
- Teach him to look to the left, then to the right, and again to the left.
- He should never dart across the road anywhere he wants to. He should use pedestrian crossings, subways and overbridges meant for the purpose.
- When he crosses, he should walk briskly and not stroll past lazily.
- If he is crossing the road along with a friend or two, tell him firmly that he should not hold anyone’s hand. Most of the time, while holding hands, one person will decide to cross and pull the other, while the other is hesitant to do so. Such pulling and tugging will cause uncertainties on the part of motorists too, and prove to be risky. (Of course, this will not apply when you accompany young children; they should hold on to your hand firmly.)
- The most important point is to never cross before or behind stationary vehicles; you never know when they will move or whether there are vehicles coming from the other side.
Rule No. 6: Do not play on the road – Be it gully cricket or a simple game of run and catch, let your child remember that roads are not play areas. Let him go to the neighbourhood park, if need be, to play such games. Not just playing games, even running on the road should be discouraged.
Rule No. 7: Be alert while walking – Tell your child to be careful and alert while walking on the road. She should not be preoccupied or engrossed in a conversation with her friends. Teach her to sense the sound of various horns, so that she will be able to assess the type of vehicle that is coming behind her. Most importantly, teach her to use the pavement or sidewalk wherever one is available.
Rule No. 8: Stay safe as a passenger – While travelling by buses, cars or trains, instruct your child to not stretch his hand or put his head out. Also, let him hold on to rails firmly when he is standing; sometimes, when the driver applies the brakes suddenly it may lead to freak accidents. Let your child exercise caution while getting on and off vehicles. Let him always get out at the kerb side only. And, underline the risks of footboard travel. Tell your child to never indulge in it.
Rule No. 9: Wear seat belts and helmets – Both drivers and passengers, especially passengers seated in front, should wear seat belts while travelling by car. As far as a two-wheeler is concerned, helmets are a must for drivers. This is a basic lesson your child should learn early on. He may get behind the wheel much later, yet be a model to him by practising this yourself.
Rule No. 10: Prohibit driving a motorised two-wheeler – In India, the legal age to obtain a permanent driving license is completion of 18 years, whereas a provisional or learner’s license can be obtained after completing 16 years. However, the provisional license authorises one to drive only vehicles which are gear-less and less than 50 cc. There is hardly any vehicle that falls under the said category, these days. Therefore, you should never permit your child to drive a two-wheeler until he completes 18 years.
Following these 10 rules, and equipping herself with the all-important skill of time management and the even more important virtue of patience will ensure your child stays safe on the road.