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At What Age Do Children Have Enough Road Sense?

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 30 Jun 2013 | comments*Discuss
Safety Road Safety Road Sense Child


Is there any guidance on what age children have 'road sense' and are able to cross busy A roads on their own, without any adult supervision?

(L.M, 14 July 2009)


This is a good question, although it’s got a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ answer! It’s one of those issues where it’s hard to pinpoint an exact time and age.

There are a number of factors involved when children become ready and have road sense, not least based on how much they’ve been taught about road safety and their general ability to understand the dangers. However, as a rough guide, UK government road safety advisors suggest that children won’t be ready to cross roads independently until they’re at least eight years old. But even then, they won’t necessarily be ready for big, busy main roads, and many children take longer to feel safe when crossing roads on their own at all.

As a parent or carer, the best thing you can do to ensure children learn road sense is to help get them equipped with road safety knowledge. This doesn’t mean just telling them about it, but actually doing it and setting a good example yourself, as children will learn from observing your actions.

You can help to equip your child with road sense in many ways. For example, by choosing safe places to cross the road and explaining your choices to your child, so they understand why you chose that spot or why you’re using the pedestrian crossing. As they get older, you could encourage them to choose where you’ll both cross the road.

You could slowly introduce more responsibility, such as them crossing on their own with you watching from a short distance away, crossing with a sibling or friend and, eventually, without supervision.

Teaching them the Green Cross Code is essential, as is learning when it’s safe to cross the road, why to avoid crossing between parked cards or on bends of the road. Parents are understandably protective of their children and keen to shield them from harm or road accidents, but road sense is something that is best learnt from being out there and learning from example.

Ultimately, parents know their own children well and are usually the best judge of when a child is clued up, confident and sensible enough to put the issues into action and cross roads on their own.

I hope that helps provide you with some answers.

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I think another point will be how familiar the children are with the individual road concerned - as much of judging the speed of oncoming vehicles will relate to distances and known landmarks (in our case a speed bump with zebra crossing by the local shop makes a big difference to the narrow A road, even if it sufficiently far away from our house that the children cross by our home when heading out (but often use the zebra crossing when coming home!)Our son is 7 and he and his school classmates are just beginning to cross the road alone, the occasional parent seeing them across but mostly they are trusted to pass between homes in the village independently. We have let him do this alone a number of times but are still usually within sight of him. However I would not trust my son to do this on similar, unfamiliar, roads.
Helen - 4-Jul-12 @ 11:26 PM
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