Road Safety

by on 15-05-2019 in Parenting Aid

Road Safety

Courtesy Sr. Marthie Nel Hauptfleisch
Singer-songwriter, Inspirational Speaker & Nurse

I remember the day my mom taught me to stay on the sidewalk when I walked to my friend’s house: although it was only two houses away it was a busy road and it was important to know how to stay safe. 

The most important rule in my house is to never to pass behind a car – especially in a parking lot. Parking lots are the most dangerous place you can find yourself- even more dangerous than the jungle! You don’t have to look out for lions and elephants but you have to look out for drivers on their cell phones and delivery trucks on a deadline. Little feet often become invisible when they cross behind a car and enter the two blind spots every motorist knows they have.


So where do you begin? Teach your child to keep on the sidewalk - because one slip of the foot might end up being a fall in the road and an unassuming motorist running over a child.

Teach children to cross the road at safe road crossings: preferably a corner: this is where motorists are most aware of checking their surroundings. The best choice is a foot crossing. And when you do cross, it is important to know to triple check: Right, Left, and Right, making eye contact with the motorist so you can read if they have noticed your presence and what they are up to in driving.

Let’s play! The biggest challenge is when you have a new toy and it is playtime. Children often choose the open road in front of their house to play ball or even skate board. See? This is a community problem. Safe spaces (preferably fenced in) are needed to keep a safe space for children to play e.g. church’s parking lot where there is not much traffic on weekdays in the afternoons.

Once a child is taught well they will become the leaders for the smaller siblings who follow them around everywhere. Watch out!  You are being watched by the little feet who have not learnt the rules of the road yet!

Urban areas often have dedicated foot / pedestrian crossings marked with white lines. Some even have a traffic light you can press to the delight of a child. The danger still exists that motorists will not heed this light. 

Passenger: In the Car.

My rule of thumb is: no seatbelt? No go… If you do not have a seatbelt to protect you against an accident there is no reason why you should be travelling. Besides it’s the law and the first thing you write your test on when you get your learner’s license: everybody in the car must be buckled in – you can be fined R250-R500 for not abiding to this rule.

Most road accidents (52%) happen 10 km from your house and 77% 25 km from your house: ‘I just drive around here- the backstreets, you know’ the most dangerous attitude and drivers to have a talk with… The roads are only safe when everybody takes it seriously! I remember my dad telling me the day I received my license “Marthie- remember a car is a dangerous weapon”.

Drinking and driving is a no-no: your driving is impaired for 8 hours after consuming alcohol and it is best to have a friend who abstains from drinking when you know you are going to an event where alcohol is involved. Nothing wakes you up like not knowing where the bloodstain on your car came from the next morning. True story.

I once had a friend who made a big accident with four people in the car all injured. The cause? A bee… A child became hysterical with the sight of the bee causing commotion and the car was a write-off and the four people were still going for physiotherapy months after. It is important to teach your kids car etiquette: when you are in the car your job is to be quiet and make sure that the driver can travel safely: paying attention to the road and other motorists/pedestrians and emergency indicators of the car. Attention can easily be divided with screaming fighting children, children whining about their next meal or sibling rivalry. Music should be suitable for driving and cell phones should be hands free devices. Some hands free devices work with earphones: one ear should always be open to make sure you can react to the environment cues around you.

The best way you can show a child you love them and value them is to buckle them up and teach them this: it is like a super-hug and kiss made from metal!  My daughter will quickly tell you about the day she did not buckle up and we were on our way to a birthday party- the one she missed because I turned the car around and went straight back home… Cruel? Yes but kind because it is a lesson she will never forget- she still talks about it: the things I am lenient about as a parent and then the things that are non-negotiable… Seatbelts are non-negotiable!


So yes the driver needs to be awake, rested and focused while driving. Medications, emotional state of mind, alcohol and cell phones and other distractions like maps and music must be limited. In today’s times it is easy to have a mobile assistant to help you navigate hands free: make sure you figure out how to work them before starting the engine. Buckling up is obviously just as important for the driver than the passengers. Impact is usually from the side which could lead to whip lash and even the car rolling. Medical bills can be limited if you wear your seatbelt as well as parents saved for children. 

Do not drive in awkward hours of the day if you can help it: driving after midnight finds you on the road with people who might be intoxicated or tired themselves and besides dark areas makes it more dangerous to drive especially when waiting at a red traffic light. Evening rule of driving when you are women alone when it is safe. Sometimes the biggest good deed you can do for the day is to watch out for you fellow motorists. 

To make sure your car is in a good condition is also important: brakes do go and wheels do get punctures- that reminds me of my wheel that has been losing air: make sure you check your car daily before you get in.

It is great we are not travelling with ox and wagon/horse and carriage anymore but your car is still an animal that needs to be taken care of. Once you have set the rules of the car and road it makes it easy and safe to travel: you will get their safe and much faster when everybody knows they are part of the road team.


Did you know your most important organ is your brain and it resides in your head- the same head that might hit the road first if you are bumped off your bike? Wear your helmet: one that fits, every time you get on your bicycle. I remember my kids doing an egg drop challenge to see whose egg would make the two level drop from the roof. Sure enough- it was the one with polystyrene. Your brain and the egg: well there is really no comparison except you do give yourself a better chance when something does happen. We are very green these days but motorists are not always aware of the 1, 5 km distance they have to keep and there are times you simply have to share the same narrow road and one rock in your road can rewrite your history… Same with skate boarding: wear protective gear (knee and elbow guards) until you know you have mastered the skill: Head protection should be worn always!

Crossing the road?

When is a child old enough to cross a road? I remember I had a friend who came from a farm village and she could not cross the road without having a near death experience and giving me a heart attack with her style of crossing the road: quick side check and then run as fast as you can! No this is not a good strategy: the best way is to triple check and then walk a normal speed- this way a motorist can see you and can anticipate what to expect of you as a pedestrian. It is also a good idea to check and make eye contact with motorists when you cross the road- even at a pedestrian crossing because then you can see if the motorist is paying attention to you and you crossing the road. I have been to cities where the pedestrian style would be: put down your year and just start crossing but this is not the best way to learn children.

Hold their hands! It is such an adventure to figure out who has the big hand, soft hands, warm hands, bony hands: make this part of the fun and a game to hold hands and cross the street. Children often want to break loose and run ahead to show their independence: but this is not-negotiable.

Wear reflecting clothes when walking in the dark or wintertime when visibility is challenges.