Child Safety Week 2015: Road Safety for Kids (1)

“Stop standing behind the car when I am trying to reverse! How many times do I have to tell you that? Next time you do that I am going to punish you!” Yes that’s me telling my little cousin off.

The 2015 theme for Child Safety Week is ‘Teatime Terrors’ – events such as drowning and bath water scalds, road accidents caused by heavy traffic while rushing home from school/nursery, and burns and scalds caused by kitchen appliances. I have noticed that in Nigeria these things happen a little differently. Take for instance my little cousin mentioned in the first paragraph above.

The fear of moving vehicles is the beginning of ……
I pick my little cousin for school every morning (and of course take her back home) and by the time I get to my mum’s, I see her and my mum standing by the gate waiting patiently. I always turn around and reverse towards the gate for an easy getaway but each time I am doing that, I notice through my rear view mirror that she leaves the safe zone where she has been standing with my mum, trying to walk towards the car or even standing in the way of the car to the extent that sometimes I am unable to reverse fully. Sometimes I see my mum drag her back to safety. Most of the time, I have to really tell her off and threaten to punish her. Each time I explain to her that she must remain where she is until my car has stopped moving and shouldn’t act that way with just me but with everyone – I caution her to fear all cars as she could get hit (and have her legs broken to emphasise how unsafe it is and to put the fear of moving vehicles in her 😉 ). Then I ask “do you want your legs broken?” She says no then I tell her that is exactly why I am always hard on her when she stands in the way of my reversing car. She always says she’s sorry but I just keep wondering why she keeps forgetting my simple instruction and why I have to repeat myself so many times.

Now I have noticed this trend with kids on Nigerian roads when they are off to school or on their way back from school is when I see them more. I see that they have total disregard for moving vehicles. They see the traffic light is green and vehicles are moving and rushing before the light goes red but the kids walk casually in front of these moving vehicles like they are a breath of fresh air and can do no harm. They ignore your horn like they can’t hear it. They walk behind when you are reversing. They refuse to walk on pavements and instead, walk on the main road. On Nigerian roads, you see a lot of unacceptable behaviour.

If you are having problems getting your kids to comply, don’t give up. Keep saying it and soon your child/children will begin to act just as you have instructed. Believe me it works. It took me scolding my little cousin a few times to get her to get used to using the seat belt. At first she forgot all the time, then one day, I noticed I didn’t have to remind her. She would get into the back seat, sit in the middle (her favourite spot. I suspect it is because she feels sitting in the middle gives more access to the AC – very essential in this hot African weather) and immediately reach for the seat belt. So don’t give up on teaching your child to be safe – they listen and will obey. If everyone instructs their kids on how to behave when on the road, then we will have less accidents and a safer community.

Crossing the road
Another important point I want to discuss is crossing the road. Teach your kids to Stop, Look and Listen. Here are some tips you can show and give to them. Lead by example, show them how it is done and they will never forget. Don’t just lecture 😉

Find the safest place to cross then stop. Stand on the pavement and not on the road. The safest place is where you have the traffic lights or a spot where the drivers can easily see you. Don’t go hiding and jump into the road hoping to cross.

Don’t be in a hurry. Be patient and look all around you. Make sure you can see the road clearly to be able to tell if any cars or motorcycles are coming. Remember to stand in a position where the drivers can see you. Obey the traffic lights. Look at them and wait till it is red for cars and green for man. Where you have no green man, wait till the oncoming vehicles where you intend to cross have stopped completely. Even on zebra crossing, look! Nigerian drivers won’t stop on zebra crossing. They simply don’t care.

Listen carefully. Don’t have earphones plugged into your ear when you are on the road or trying to cross. You need to be able to hear traffic even when you cannot see it – like when walking and traffic is coming from behind you. Concentrate: never chatting to people, listening to music or talking on your phone while trying to cross the road. Your full attention is needed. Don’t copy bad behaviour by trying to cross while cars are moving or while the road is terribly busy. Always wait until it is safe to do so. When it is safe to cross, walk straight across the road. Keep looking and listening for traffic while you cross, some driver might just decide to disobey what the traffic light is saying so be attentive!

Adults are you there?
The part 2 of this write up is focused on adults. Adults who obviously don’t care about themselves and other road users but should care about the kids in their car and in the cars they encounter they whether they like it or not. Want to know what I am on about? Read this next post.

Read my first #ChildSafetyWeek post on electrical safety.