Keeping Children Safe in the Dark – Parents Need to know these tips for road safety
As the clocks go back and the nights draw in, it is an overnight adjustment for all of us keeping children safe in the dark. The darker evenings can have a big impact. However, our routines of picking up children from playdates or afterschool clubs, cycling home from work or talking the dog out for a walk all continue. These common daily activities can be very different experiences in the dark.
Follow our simple steps to stay safe wherever you are going
and whoever you are with, to help avoid the additional risks of accidents the
dark can bring.
Keeping Children Safe in the Dark
Visibility is key here. Children need to be seen, not just
by other motorists and cyclists, but by other pedestrians. It is vital to teach
your children good road safety basics from an early age. Explain to children why
they should not run across the road, show them how to identify safe places to
cross and reinforce the importance of road safety as they become more important.
It is unsafe for young children to run ahead from their accompanying adult, or
to whizz past on their scooters. Drivers may just not spot a child on their
Encourage your teenagers to retain a sense of awareness.
They should be discouraged from having headphones in their ears and should not
be concentrating on their phones. Being pre-occupied and distracted will make
them more vulnerable, both to being robbed or hit by a car.
Hold their hand on dark nights
It is good advice to always hold little one’s hands
especially near roads. Be prepared if something scares them and they panic and
Visibility on dark nights
Think about what your child is wearing. Some school uniforms
are dark. They are safer if they are visible and you can easily add
high-visibility reflective strips on their clothing, school bags or bike
helmets. Additionally, they could carry a torch.
Driveway safety on dark nights
Research from RoSPA shows that since 2008, at least 28
children have been killed on, or near, the driveways of their home. With 25 of these deaths being caused by a
reversing vehicle hitting a child. Tragically most of the victims were toddlers
aged between one and two years old. The rest were aged between three to seven
years old. These ages suggest that poor safety awareness and visibility played
a key part. According to RoSPA, it is not until the age of four or five years
that children begin to understand the concept of danger and begin to take
notice of warnings given to them. Additionally, in the majority of these cases,
the driver of the vehicle was an adult member of the child’s family, a
neighbour or a visitor to the house. Sadly, this also happened at the school
gates where my cousin attends. The mother accidentally reversed over her child
and killed them. Sometimes in our hurry to move onto the next thing, a lapse in
concentration can have catastrophic consequences.
The darker conditions in Autumn and Winter mean it is even
more important to double check that your pets and children are safely out of
harm’s way, before you drive off.
Scooter safety on dark nights
Micro scooters are hugely popular, both as a means of play
and method of commuting for both children and adults. There are no official UK
statistics for accidents involving non-motorised scooters. However, in New
Zealand, the figures supplied by the Accident Compensation Corporation show the
number of child scooter-related injury claims rose from 697 in 2008 to 6,474 in
2012. Of these, 80% were caused by loss of balance or control and 10% by
collisions. Once you factor in the increasing darkness and children being harder
to spot. The potential for an increase in scootering accidents increases.
Insist children on scooters stay close to their accompanying
adult and learn to stop at junctions and driveways. Make sure the children and
their scooters are clearly visible to other road users and pedestrians. You can
buy luminous accessories to hang from the scooter and there are cool
bands, lights and reflectors that
children love wearing and sticking on their clothes.
Keeping Children Safe in the Dark – What about Teens?
As children grow up and become more independent. They become
more at risk when they start walking themselves to school and are far more
likely to become a casualty of a road accident. In fact, in 2017, 5,838
children aged under 15 were injured in road accidents. Furthermore, the peak
times for the number of child pedestrians who died or were seriously injured
are the ‘school-run’ periods between 8-9am and 3-4pm.
As any parent knows it can be very difficult to get a
teenager to part from their mobile phone. Whether they are talking to friends
or listening to music on their mobile, they can be distracted. As a result, they
are less aware of dangers in their surroundings such as other people or
traffic. Furthermore, the dark conditions increase the risk of danger. If your
teenager insists on wearing their headphones, encourage them to opt for the ear
bud types and ideally only use one side. Often teenagers walk in packs and are
chatting and showing off and simply not paying attention. Sadly it is often on
these occasions that accidents can occur.
Dark nights and stranger danger
If your child travels on their own, encourage them to take
the safest and best-lit routes and to avoid dark shortcuts. Encourage them to
walk confidently, even if they don’t feel it, especially in the dark. Help them
work out strategies for dealing with difficult situations in the dark so that
they know what to do in an emergency. For example, shouting for help if someone
approaches them in an aggressive manner. Ensure they know to immediately give
up any valuables if someone tries to mug them. Possessions can be replaced, but
lives are lost too swiftly.
General road sense
Children and teenagers should be aware of basic road sense
such as ensuring they walk on the road facing the oncoming traffic. (Link to
Highway Code). Electric cars are quiet, so they may not hear them coming.
and the dark
It is obviously essential for cyclists to stay visible while
cycling at night. Therefore, it is vital bikes are prepared for night use.
If you are on the roads when it’s dark, then your bicycle is
legally required to have both lights and reflectors fitted. Your front light
must be white and offer 110-degree visibility. This requirement is designed specifically
to make the cyclist more visible from different angles.
Rear is red
Your rear light must be red. Both front and back lights are
permitted to flash. In addition, each pedal must also have a red rear reflector
and BS6102/2 amber reflectors on the front and rear. To give further visibility
from the side, you should also consider spoke reflectors.
Check your batteries
Remember that in winter, the light can fade quickly. As a
result, a journey that starts in daylight can finish in the dark. Get in the
habit of checking your light batteries on a regular basis and replace those
that are low.
Keep seen and safe
Once again, high visibility clothing is an effective way to
stay visible to other road users. Wearing reflective clothing on the body – in
particular on the body parts which move such as gloves or shoes, can help you
keep seen and safe. Furthermore, adding a reflective strip on a backpack or
jacket increases your visibility too. An extra suggestion is for cyclists to
wear a rear light on their backpack or on their helmet. This has the benefit of
being at eye level for drivers approaching them on the road behind.
Dog walking & the dark
As any dog walker knows, a dog walk can sometimes turn into an
unpredictable outing. This is because dogs can be inquisitive creatures and
keen to have new adventures. However, dog owners should be aware of the additional
risks of the dark especially those involving busy roads, pedestrians and other
hazards such as potholes, which are difficult to spot in poor light. Happily, there
are several ways to keep you and your dog safe whilst out getting exercise.
Tried and tested
Rather than trying new routes in the dark, stick to
tried-and-tested dog walks when taking your pet out at night. Stick to well-lit
paths and avoid dark unlit parks and commons.
Lead by example
Ensure that both you and your pet both wear highly-visible
clothing so you can clearly be seen by others. You can also opt for dog leads
and collars which are reflective, or which come with flashing lights to
increase your pet’s visibility. These can also help you to locate your pet in
Carry a torch with you. Or better still, wear a
head torch so that your hands free to manage the dog lead.
Keep them to heel
It is better to keep your dog on a lead in the dark,
especially near traffic. You are far more likely to lose your pet in the dark.
Additionally, road traffic accidents involving pets are common and increase
during hours of darkness (Link to dogs and RTA FAFP)
If your pet is of a nervous disposition, then coming across
other dogs in the dark can be even more stressful for them. Keeping your dog on
a lead can help you to manage these unexpected encounters with other dogs.
Hazards in the dark
The dark can mask potential hazards such as potholes, broken
glass and sharp objects which could cut your pet’s paws. It can also cover
dangers such as sudden drops on the other side of walls, or hidden bodies of
If you want some advice on how to keep children safe in a crowd, we suggest you read this article from our archive
Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life
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