Safe Roues to School – Stretch Your Neck (Like a Turkey) and Look, Left, Right, Left Again

From Greg White, 678-553-6543, Assistant Director of Decatur Active Living and manager of our SRTS program:

Stretch Your Neck (Like a Turkey) and Look, Left, Right, Left Again

What were you always taught about crossing streets? Likely it was “Look both ways.” But, like so much in school these days, kids are now learning something a bit different. In Pedestrian Safety Education, they learn a little chant:

STOP! Look Left! Look Right!
Look Left Again,
And Over Your Shoulder
At every road edge.

It’s pretty simple, but there’s a lot in it to help keep your child safe – and there’s much more than “look both ways.” Here’s why.

1)The Road Edge — What’s a “road edge”? It’s any place where the “walking space” meets the motorized traffic space. It could be a curb, the place where a trail meets the street, the meeting point of a sidewalk and a driveway, or the edge of a car in a parking lot. It’s important that children be aware of this change from a pedestrian-safe environment to one that is built for motorized traffic. They should be able to identify this change as an “edge” so they know what to do. Again, an edge is not just a street corner – it’s every place where we, as pedestrians, may encounter motorized traffic.

2)STOP! – Adults often forget about the “stopping” part, assuming it to be a natural thing to do. But children need to hear it over and over: the first thing they must do when they come to any type of road edge is STOP! The edge is where they need to observe, assess the situation, and make a decision about whether to move forward. It doesn’t do much good to start looking for traffic when you’re in the middle of it!

3) Look Left ! Look Right! – Many children have difficulty learning the concepts of left and right. These words may be harder for children to understand than “both ways,” but learning left from right is a very useful skill. Many teachers show children the “L” trick – when holding out both hands with thumbs at a right angle to the hand, the left hand will form an “L.” The Left Right Left chant gives young children a reason and an opportunity to practice this from an early age.

4) Look Left Again – This means look MORE THAN both ways! Traffic closest to pedestrians will be coming from the left . While looking to the right, traffic may approach from the left, so pedestrians need to check to the left again before stepping out.

5) Over Your Shoulder It’s very important to check for turning vehicles before stepping into a street or driveway. Just like car drivers and bicyclists, pedestrians need to scan over their shoulders to see what may be coming from behind them and possibly turning into their path.

(Note: These concepts apply to bicycle-riders, too: STOP! Look left, right, left again at the end of driveways and at stop signs. )

This pedestrian skill is a fundamental one, we are highlighting this skill through our Safe Routes to School program, and we encourage you to practice it as much as you can whenever you walk with your child. To add a little fun this month, you can call it the Turkey Walk — strut like a turkey, and at a road edge, STOP!, and do a little “gobble –gobble.” Then, s-t-r-e-t-c-h your neck, look left, look right, look left again, and then over your shoulder. Once your way is clear, strut on and do it over and over again. Children need the practice, and mixing it with a turkey strut will make it just that much more memorable! (And of course, please keep reminding them throughout the year, long after this November’s Turkey Days are over!)

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