Streetproofing, instructing children about the risks and dangers of daily life, has taken on the meaning of protecting children from abduction by a stranger. Parents should, however, consider other more common risks and dangers to their children and street proof them about traffic injuries, abuse by someone they know, getting lost, and dealing with other people's pets. There is no way to totally protect anyone. Streetproofing is as much instilling in our children enough self-confidence that they will listen to their instincts as it is about giving them enough knowledge to be aware but not fearful, of everything and everyone.
Traffic injuries are the Number One cause of death and injury in children. One in two hundred children under the age of fifteen dies or is seriously injured in a traffic-related incident. One reason might be that children don't get the street-safety education that kids received a generation ago although there are more cars on the roads. Parents and professionals are more likely to talk to children about stranger abduction.
It's up to parents to teach street safety. Children under the age of six should not go near the street or road without supervision, for several reasons: A child under six has poor depth perception and her peripheral vision is undeveloped; she is easily distracted; she's small and can't see over or around obstacles; she can't read signs or warnings; and a child this age probably thinks that, if she can see a car, the car's driver must be able to see her.
Making your child more aware
• Teach your child to look in both directions before crossing a street.
• Practise listening for traffic as well as watching for traffic.
• While driving with your child in the car, play road games such as Spot the Road Signs, Spot the Dangers, Spot the Bikes to increase your child's concentration and awareness of the road and of vehicles.
Praise or punish for safety behaviour?
Even parents who disagree with the concept of spanking a child will use spanking as a last resort in traffic safety situations. But research done in New Zealand and Britain indicates that severe discipline might not work. One study showed that one out of three children who were killed by oncoming vehicles had previously been disciplined for playing on the road. One of the conclusions drawn was that children don't understand what being hit by a car means. "Mommy hit me and that didn't really hurt" may be a child's perception. Whenever possible, praise good roadsafety behaviour.
Bikes & trikes and battery-driven vehicles
Don't allow children under six to ride their trikes or bikes near a street for the same reasons that you don't leave them unsupervised. When your preschooler is ready for a bike, she's also ready for an approved bike helmet. Make the rule "No helmet, No riding" even when she's going biking on a bike path. Most bike injuries don't involve cars.
• Involve your child in a community bike-check and safety rally.
• Check your child's bike regularly; involve her in bike maintenance.
• Ride with your child in a safe place and teach road safety as you go.
Until a child is 18 kg (40 lb.) or about 100 cm (40 in.) tall, he should be buckled into an appropriate car seat in the back seat. Maintain the backseat rule until your child is at least twelve years of age to protect him from the dangers of an inflating air bag. Transport Canada recommends that children under twelve not ride in the front seat of vehicles equipped with air bags. But neither you nor your child will always know whether the car you're riding in has air bags.
Some car-riding tips
• Avoid giving a child hard candies, peanuts, grapes, or any food that may cause her to choke while she is in the car.
• Never leave a child alone in a car.
• Do not show a child how to start the car or work the controls, with the exception of the horn.
• Keep all the doors locked at all times while you're in the car.
• Teach your child to get out of a car on the non-traffic side.
• Teach your child to hold her caretaker's hand in a parking lot.