Streets are not playgrounds
Pedestrian/vehicle accidents often involve younger children less experienced at crossing streets and/or motorists who don’t understand pedestrian crossing laws and motorists’ responsibilities. Too often, though, the same parents concerned about crossing busy streets look at quiet streets differently and allow, or actually encourage, children to play in the street.
Streets are designed for cars. Unfortunately, in many neighborhoods without sidewalks, kids are naturally drawn to the street because it provides a viable flat surface for many activities. The first step toward a safer, more aware community is to debunk two common myths about streets as playgrounds.
Myth #1: “Quiet Streets are Safer"
A cul-de-sac of six homes may have 50 to 60 vehicles per day on the street, and traffic on a cul-de-sac usually is slow moving. Other low-volume streets may have only 100 to 200 vehicles per day and few unfamiliar motorists. This is a far cry from traffic volumes on a street like McColl Drive, so where’s the danger?
Children who play in the low-volume street soon learn that vehicles are few and that most drivers are alert. They tend to ignore the traffic because it is infrequent and assume that every driver sees them. But what happens on a visit to a friend or relative whose street has 5,000 vehicles a day, or when a visiting driver on their street isn’t so alert? The habit of walking or riding into the street or even playing in the “quiet” street may be a fatal problem. And no matter how you slice it, a car traveling a very slow speed is still dangerous to pedestrians.
Myth #2: “Older Kids Will Be Safe”
Small children are particularly at risk in traffic situations. They often are not old enough to know safety rules and may not yet have developed the ability to distinguish vehicle speed or distance. They are also difficult for motorists to see. The riskiest behaviors include darting into the street after a ball, riding a bike at the end of a driveway, and playing in the street.
Although older children are easier to see and more aware of safety rules, they are still at risk when they use the street as a playground. It’s not uncommon to see portable basketball hoops or hockey nets set up to facilitate driveway or street play. But a basketball or hockey player concentrating on the game and a passing motorist not concentrating on driving may be on a collision course.
Streets Are For Cars
We are very fortunate to have a great park system with many facilities, and most homes here have yards and driveways. Between the two, there is little reason for children to use the street as a playground. The best way to prevent an accident is to keep children from playing in the street.
- Pay attention to your children. If they are in the street, immediately call them to the house.
- Talk to your children about the danger of the street. Be sure they are aware of the consequences of an accident.
- Actively play with your children, teaching them games that don’t require using the street.
- If a flat paved surface is absolutely necessary, encourage use of the driveway. If your driveway is steep, create a flat area near the garage or consider adding a paved area for recreational use in the back yard.