Pedestrian Safety: Street-Smart Tips for Kids

A young boy practices pedestrian safety while crossing a street.

Since the beginning of the 2019 school year, over 20 Washoe County School District students have been involved in pedestrian crashes — a record high for the county. So what can we do about it? How can we keep our kids safe? Safe Kids Washoe County says education is key and offers tips for kids along with general pedestrian safety advice to help keep everyone in our community safer. 

Pedestrian Safety Affects Us All 

Safe Kids Washoe County wants to remind both drivers and pedestrians to take extra precautions around school zones, especially during school hours and when students are walking to and from campuses.

Related: Back-to-School Safety Tips

We can all learn something about pedestrian safety from these Safe Kids tips:  

Teach Kids How to Walk Safely

  1. Teach kids at an early age to look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Then remind them to continue looking until safely across.
  2. It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. 
  3. Teach kids to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
  4. Children under 10 need to cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.
  5. Encourage kids to be especially alert for cars that are turning or backing up.
  6. Teach kids not to run or dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
  7. If kids are walking when it’s dark out, teach them to be especially alert and make sure they are visible to drivers. Have them wear light- or brightly-colored clothing and reflective gear. 


Take Action Against Distraction

  1. Teach kids to put phones, headphones and devices down when crossing the street. It is particularly important to reinforce the message with teenagers.
  2. Pull headphones down or turn off the volume before crossing the street.
  3. Be aware of others who may be distracted and speak up when you see someone who is in danger.
  4. If kids need to use a cell phone, teach them to stop walking and find a safe area to talk.


Let Your Actions Speak as Loudly as Your Words

  1. Be a good role model. Set a good example by putting your phone, headphones and devices down when walking around cars.
  2. When driving, put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat or out of sight until your final destination.
  3. Be especially alert and slow down when driving in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Be on the lookout for bikers, walkers or runners who may be distracted or may step into the street unexpectedly.
  4. Give pedestrians the right of way and look both ways when making a turn to spot any bikers, walkers or runners who may not be immediately visible.


Related: Tips for Preteens & Teens: Prevent Pedestrian Crashes 

A Crosswalk Accident Hits Home

To help highlight the need for better awareness — and to help other families avoid the unexpected, life-changing consequences that pedestrian-involved accidents can cause, one mother shares a story that turned her world upside-down. It is an emotional retelling of events and a powerful plea to make pedestrian safety a priority for us all.  

After four and a half months, I’m finally beginning to come out of the haze that I’ve been in since August 20th, 2019 — the day that changed my family forever.

It was no more than 30 minutes after I dropped off my daughter, Nataliya, at her cousin’s house to walk to school, the sixth day of school to be exact, when I received a call that my baby girl was laying in the street unresponsive. She and her cousin had been struck by an SUV. I was told her cousin was hurt, but thankfully, responsive. I was then told to meet my daughter at the hospital. When I asked the officer how bad it was, he told me that Nataliya, my baby, was bleeding from her nose.

Little did I know, that meant a head injury.

Prior to this, I had many conversations with my children about pedestrian safety. I explained to them their responsibilities as pedestrians: Always use a crosswalk. Stay off of your phone. And make sure the driver sees you before stepping into a crosswalk. Those are just a few of the things we talked about. 

Yet nothing could have prepared any of us for what would happen not long after one of our last conversations.

What happens when you do everything right and you still get hit? What then? All of the conversations, the explaining, all of that goes away.

I agree 100% that pedestrians have a responsibility to abide by laws set in place to protect both them and others. But drivers also share in that responsibility. Drivers should, just as pedestrians, be aware of upcoming crosswalks. If the sun is in your eyes, slow down — and always stay off of your phones.

The reality is, a pedestrian is no match for a vehicle. A vehicle wins EVERY TIME.

I’ve seen so many parents not paying attention to their children. I clearly remember one incident where I went to pull out of the driveway but stopped suddenly when I saw a little boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old, riding a scooter in the middle of the street. I waited for a few seconds for him to move, but he did not. Then I saw who I assumed was his mother and said, “Excuse me, your son is riding his scooter in the middle of the street.” And her response was, “Oh, kids play in the street all the time over here.”   

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen cars racing to beat pedestrians already in the crosswalk, or how many near misses I’ve witnessed. I myself have almost been hit halfway through crosswalks. Some cars will stop while other cars don’t slow down even though they see their fellow drivers stopped ahead of them. They fly around the other cars, nearly hitting the pedestrian that they didn’t see.

Drivers & pedestrians share a responsibility to be safe at all times.

My kid did everything right and is now in the fight of her life to regain herself due to a driver who didn’t see her or her cousin walking halfway through a crosswalk.

As a community we have a duty to protect our children and each other. I firmly believe we need to demand justice in pedestrian verses car accidents and gain the attention of our lawmakers to provide a safety net for pedestrians struck by cars in crosswalks. 

Where there is no consequence to one’s actions, one’s actions will only become more of a problem — which is evidenced by the rise in pedestrian verses car accidents. 

In closing, I would like to remind everyone that your life, and your loved ones’ lives, can change in an instant. Value each day that you’re whole, each day that you’re healthy. Relish your independence and every step you take. Life is uncertain. Enjoy every moment. 

–Chandra Mask 

More Tips for Kids: A Kid’s Guide to Safe Walking

Students for Crosswalks

Want to help our local teens improve our school crosswalks?

Students at the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology (AACT) in Reno helped to raise funds to have a new flashing lights system installed at the crosswalk near their campus and want to continue their efforts at other schools.

Learn How You Can Help