Back to School Tips from AAA: Is your child ready to walk to school?
It’s that time of year again: Over the next couple of weeks, most Colorado school districts will be kicking off the new year. And, with many warm summer and fall days ahead of us, walking to school presents itself as an active, healthy alternative to commuting for many families.
But how do you decide if your child is old enough to walk to school or the bus stop on their own? There’s no federal or Colorado law setting a legal age minimum before children can walk alone. That said, your child’s school or school district may have their own policies on the matter – so check in there, first.
If there aren’t rules on the books, it’s up to parents to decide the right time for their student to begin walking to school. AAA Colorado recommends that you consider your child’s age, abilities, and general traffic patterns on the routes to and from your child’s destination. As a general rule, children under the age of 9 or 10 do not have the skills to walk alone in areas with traffic. But, as the saying goes, age is just a number. What matters is whether your children have demonstrated that that they can safely walk and cross streets independently. But, even if they have, the volume and speed of traffic between home and school may not provide for a safe route for the child. No matter what, parents should teach safe behavior.
After deciding if a child is allowed to walk to school, AAA Colorado offers these five ways parents can ensure a safe commute:
- Walk with children many times to familiarize them with the route. This creates an opportunity to point out potential traffic hazards and situations to avoid.
- Have children walk in a group. With more eyes and ears, they can cross streets together and negotiate dangerous situations more safely. Having an adult walk with the group can make the trip even safer.
- Talk with children about traffic safety and teach them when and where it is safest to cross streets. Always use crosswalks yourself in order to model safe behavior.
- Emphasize the importance of visually scanning dangerous areas such as driveways and parking lots.
- Remind children to take their time, to stop, and to look both ways and listen when crossing streets – even when there is a well-marked crosswalk.
Drivers and pedestrians are together responsible for keeping themselves and others on the road safe. As congestion increases in school zones during the coming days, all drivers are reminded to slow down and to obey posted school-zone speed limits – and, most importantly, to minimize distractions. Use extra caution when children are present since children are less focused on and experienced with basic traffic safety.