When they start secondary school, most children will want to walk there, as well as to other destinations, on their own. This can be an exciting time as they assert their independence. But, for parents, it can also be a worrying time, particularly with regard to road safety.
One of the most effective ways to prepare children is to start young and practice through real experience, like walking to school, the park or the playground. Children who develop road awareness in primary school are in a much better position when they make the transition to secondary school.
There is no legal minimum age when a child is allowed to walk on their own. It's up to you and your child, and will depend on their confidence and the routes they're taking.
How to teach your child road awareness
When introducing young children to road awareness it's important to bear in mind that they perceive traffic in different ways to adults.
They can't always judge the speed or distance of vehicles or where sound is coming from because their peripheral vision is two-thirds that of an adult. Children can also be easily distracted.
What you can do:
- set an example: stop, look and listen, don't take risks and avoid using your mobile phone when crossing the road
- bend down to their eye level to get an idea of what they can and can't see
- find a safe place to cross where you can see easily, ideally at a crossing or away from parked cars and when it's clear, walk straight across
- talk about the traffic you see on your way and the best places to cross, and ask questions about the speed and size of different vehicles
- in quiet areas, gradually allow your children to practice making decisions about where and when to cross roads
For more information and advice about road safety, visit The Department for Transport's Think! Education site.
As children reach upper primary school they will want to become more independent. Use this time to reinforce their road awareness and gradually encourage them to make their own decisions:
- practise walking to school and to other destinations together. Start to let them lead the way and make decisions about where and when to cross
- once you’re both confident, they could walk a little further ahead
- when they are ready to go it alone, work out a route together using quieter roads and avoiding busy junctions. Walk the route with them to point out good crossing points and things to watch out for
- encourage them to walk with local friends (you may want to set some ground rules with other parents first)
- remind them to avoid distractions such as chatting to friends, using mobile phones or wearing earphones when crossing roads
- download the Green Cross Code (pdf) to take out with you