Safer than sitting on your bum


Throughout the year I am contacted by various people concerned about vehicles around schools.

Most often, the issues that cause the biggest headaches are created by parents/caregivers.

When I am requested to visit a school, I often see poor driver choices. In particular, u-turns, double-parking and parking on yellow lines are movements which place people at risk. These manoeuvres are of concern to principals, teachers and road patrol pupils who work hard to create a safe passage into and out of the school grounds each day.

There is a duty of care, though this needs to be realistic; schools are not able to escort each child all the way home. Once pupils have gone beyond the crossing point, the ability for the school to influence their behaviour diminishes with every step.

One of the key messages I tell pupils is that they need to learn how to cross the road safely. This is all about risk management and assessing your surroundings.

I explain to them that if they want to have an interesting life and meet new people and visit new places, they will need to cross the road to get there.

Every day presents a new opportunity for children to practice their road safety skills, especially on the way to and from school. Parents who worry about the safety of their children should take an active role and teach them the best way to navigate the journey.

Many parents are nervous about their child riding a bike or scooter to school. I was at a conference in Dunedin a few years ago and one speaker reminded the 400-plus people in the room that what we were doing at that moment — sitting down — or being inactive, causes as many as 3000 people to die prematurely each year in New Zealand. He also said that active trips to work every day reduce the risk of death by 30%.

I have two daughters and they walk, cycle or scooter to school. Admittedly, I do worry about them, or more accurately, I worry about other people on the roads not obeying the rules. But in reality, the more often they make these journeys, the more confident and capable they become.

The essence of what I’m trying to get across is that the time you spend with your child engaging in active transport is beneficial for their development.

They get exercise, learn how to handle risk, have a better connection with their surroundings and help reduce the number of vehicles outside our schools.

If you do feel the need to transport your child to and from school, park away from the main gates and let them walk some of the distance.

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