Kids in Traffic

Kids in Traffic

Children, teenagers and traffic: How does it all work?

You are a driver and you know how the whole thing works – a lot of responsibility, focus and seriousness. As a responsible driver and parent, you naturally want to teach your child how to behave in traffic and stay safe. Before you lose your patience, be mindful of the fact that children aren’t mini adults and their brains function differently than yours. Namely, they are able to master some basic rules in traffic (looking left and right when crossing the street, waiting for the green light to cross the street, and similar) while all other, more complex rules are beyond their comprehension. This is why:

– Children believe that they are seen by a vehicle they themselves have previously spotted as they don’t distinguish between ”being seen” and ”seeing”. Also, their field of vision is restricted to the right and left only so they have hard time noticing approaching vehicles with their peripheral vision

– Children’s reactions are spontaneous and not thought out. Teach them not to run after the ball on the road, don’t yell at them for doing so

– The directions from which noises come (such as engine noises, horns, voices/yells) are hard for children to recognize as their ability to locate sounds is poor

– Children are uninterested in everything other than what currently occupies their attention. Basically, they’ll shut out everything other but that ball they’re running after

– Children are unable to turn their heads to the right or left while running and react to any abrupt, potential danger

– Children need longer to cross the street as their steps are far shorter than that of the adult

So, your responsibility as a parent and an adult is to at an early age teach your child how to behave in traffic. Start lightly and make traffic rules age-appropriate. Your children need to know when and where to cross the street, what behavior is acceptable, what desirable and what forbidden. It would be good to agree on the time they come back home, so they will have a time frame in which to operate. If they are late, don’t scold them but talk to them and explain why it is important to be home on time. All traffic rules should be mastered by the time your kid hits first grade. Also, make sure your kid always wears a bright piece of clothing in traffic or to have a school bag in neon colors and/or some reflective materials for additional security.

You and your teenage driver

When your children hit puberty, they will be experiencing emotional hell almost daily since their hormones are going wild at that stage of life. Don’t let them drive ”emotionally loaded” as it may influence their judgment in traffic. Teach your teenagers to limit distractions, such as phones and music, not to drink and drive, not to go over speed limit regardless of driving during the day or night and to always fasten their seatbelts. Inform your teenager of IIHS’s data that suggests that ”the percentages of fatal accidents involving speeding was 85% for 16 year olds and 78% for 17-19 year olds” and always talk to them about road safety. It may also be good to set some hours or days aside for accompanying them in driving, i.e. taking the passenger’s seat at least until they (and you) are confident about their driving skills.


Article written by Christian Bach

Guest Contributor

We love guest posts at Parenting Central so we can deliver you a variety of voices and perspectives. We take submissions from other writers, or people who just have a story to tell. If you'd like to submit an article please contact

Related Articles