Bit of a serious post from me today, but I would love your thoughts on this.
We live on a very busy road and I have always been very aware of the need to teach Little Man road safety from the word go. He still doesn't quite get it, but every time we cross any road I try to involve him in the "stop, look, listen" routine.
But what worries me the most is that I am trying to teach him to use a pedestrian crossing if at all possible and yet these do not seem all that safe these days either.
You see, we live right next to a zebra crossing. Every day I tell Little Man to hold my hand and stop at the crossing and wait until the cars stop… and then we stand and watch several cars drive straight past us. And I'm not talking about cars which were practically on the crossing when we got there, I'm talking about those which had plenty of time to stop. I've even been in the middle of the road, crossing because the side nearest to me has stopped, and had cars zoom through the other side.
They did this when I was heavily pregnant, when I had a pram with a baby in, and now when I have a toddler by my side. It is honestly terrifying how little awareness there seems to be of the fact that this is a crossing and someone is waiting to cross. And I don't know which is worse, the cars that zoom by with their drivers seemingly oblivious to what is happening or those whose drivers look at me and shrug their shoulders as if to say, "well, what could I do?"
Um… you could stop!
And yet, I am used to this. I am super careful on this zebra crossing as I know what it is like. I am cross that this is the case, but it is what it is. What I was not prepared for, however, was the fact the same thing could happen at a pelican crossing – you know, the ones with traffic lights and a green man for pedestrians?
Last week I was in town and I saw the lights at the crossing starting to change to amber and then red. I knew I wanted to cross and so I sped up my pace to make sure I got to the crossing before the green man showed up. I got there just as the green man flashed on and the beeping started. The cars nearest to me had stopped and so I began crossing, all good so far… and then not one, but two cars zoomed through the other side right in front of me and a third car, whilst stopping to let me cross, had the audacity to honk her horn at me. And when I looked at the driver she shook her head at me as if I was in the wrong.
For a horrid moment I honestly thought I must have misread the situation, but one quick look at the traffic lights confirmed that there was a green man and these drivers had just gone straight through a red light whilst a pedestrian was on the road. How's that for terrifying?
It seems I'm not alone in this experience either. When I shared my story on Facebook I was greeted by several similar stories of drivers being so unaware of the road that they sped through red lights or turned when it was not safe etc. And it seems that it isn't only us pedestrians who have things to fear, other drivers seem to be struggling with the actions of other road users too.
But as I am trying to teach my son road safety, it is the safety of him as a pedestrian that most concerns me. That isn't to say I don't worry about his safety when we are in the car, because I do, but there will come a day when he wants to go out on his own and that's when I worry about having taught him enough road safety to remain safe. (Thankfully, this is a few years off yet, but the seeds of that knowledge begin now).
And I thoroughly accept that pedestrians can be just as dangerous too… I have seen so many people walk out in front of cars when they just couldn't be bothered to wait for the lights to change or walk those extra few yards to use a crossing. Why do we seem to have such a disrespect for how dangerous our roads can be?
For now, the only thing I can think of is to teach Little Man to always use a crossing if one is available and even if the cars seem to have stopped, to keep looking and listening both ways as he crosses the road… teach him to expect the unexpected. But is that enough?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. How have you taught road safety to your kids? And have you come across these kinds of problems?