Take a Walk on the Safe Side

As the new school year begins, so do parentsí safety concerns about letting their children walk to school.

"Children begin to have the skills necessary to safely walk alone near traffic after age 10, so until then an adult or an older child should accompany younger children," said Patti Rhynders, injury prevention outreach manager at Children's Medical Center of Dallas. "Until that age, kids have a hard time judging gaps in traffic or determining the speed of traffic."

For older children, Rhynders also recommends that parents designate a safe place to play that is away from traffic routes. Children ages 10 to 14 are most at risk while playing in the street after school between 3 and 6 p.m. The risk increases dramatically between 6 and 9 p.m.

"Most of the time, when a child is hit by a car, the child is at fault," she said. "But that's of little consolation to a driver who injures or kills a child. Each of us, as drivers, could be in this position should a child dart out mid-block, or make an unexpected turn into the path of our oncoming vehicle. A child's risk of being killed if hit by a car going 30 mph is 40 percent. If the car is traveling at 40 mph, the risk jumps to 80 percent. Drivers should slow down on neighborhood streets, and be aware of children playing near the street, or poised to dart between parked cars."

Parents should always be good role models. Walk facing traffic, only cross at crosswalks, and teach your children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing.