Helping Your Child Go To and From School Safely

Main points:

  • Talking to your child about what they need to know to stay safe is a crucial part of growing up.
  • Whether traveling in a car, taking public transport or walking to and from school, it is important to discuss road safety with your child.
  • Parents should be aware of the school's road safety and traffic safety policies.

Leaving for school and returning home

Your child will be travelling to and from school regularly so it is vital that they know how to get there and back safely. They’ve had quite a bit of practice so far this year, but here are some tips and helpful reminders.

Preventing driveway accidents

  • Your child may become highly absorbed in what they are doing, like chasing a ball, and may not be aware that they are entering a potentially dangerous situation. This can happen in your own driveway or at shopping centres, train stations and car parks. Always check where your child is before you reverse your vehicle. Your child should either be safely in a child restraint or booster seat in the car or if they are outside the car, in plain sight with an adult.
  • Always hold your child’s hand near cars, even if you’re just walking to the letterbox or going to your car in the driveway. Explain to your child that you are holding their hand to keep them safe and out of harm’s way.
  • If you can, fence off the driveway or garage so your child can’t run towards or behind a car.

Getting in and out of the car

Always use the kerbside, rear passenger door when helping your child into or out of your car. This way, your child will get used to always getting in and out of the car through the safest door – the one furthest away from traffic.

The journey to and from school

In the car

The Victorian road rules require a child aged 4 to 7 years to travel in either a forward facing approved child restraint with an in-built harness or an approved booster seat.

The restraint must be the correct size for your child, properly adjusted and fastened, and correctly fitted to the vehicle. For more information, see VicRoads: Choose the right child restraint

Your child will be watching what you do and learning by your example, even in the car. Make sure that you follow the road rules, keeping to the speed limits, be a courteous driver and not use your mobile phone while driving your car.

Walking to and from school

Walking to school with your child is a great way to start the day. If you are able, you can talk to your child about what is happening at school that day and discuss or reinforce road safety awareness in your child.

  • Always hold your child’s hand, whether you are crossing the road or walking to school.
  • Take special care where there’s a lot of traffic, narrow or non-existent footpaths, or things like parked cars and trucks, trees, hill crests or crowded footpaths that block your view of the road. This is especially so when you are taking your child to school, as this is a time when there are many children and parents coming and going, and your child may be tempted to run off to join their friends.
  • Your child will learn by your example. Always cross roads at pedestrian crossings or corners, wait for the traffic or pedestrian lights, and cross the road when it is safe Explain what you are doing to your child so they can understand and learn how to safely cross a road.

Some schools have walking school buses where children and adults walk together at a designated time and pick up place so that everyone gets to school and home again safely. In fact, the month of October is usually designated ‘Walktober’ month where school children are encouraged to walk or ride their bikes to and from school.

If your child’s school doesn’t have their own walking school bus, you can always start your own – especially if you live reasonably close to the school.

For more information, see:

Crossing roads

You may have learned to look right, look left, look right again when crossing the road and have passed this onto your child. In line with current road safety advice, VicRoads recommends Stop, Look, Listen, Think.

  • STOP one step back from the kerb or shoulder of the road if there is no footpath.
  • LOOK in all directions for approaching traffic.
  • LISTEN in all directions for approaching traffic.
  • THINK about whether it is safe to cross the road – when the road is clear or all traffic has stopped.
  • When crossing, walk straight across the road. Keep looking and listening for traffic while crossing.

Other things you can do include:

  • Talk to your child about the road rules in simple terms, like asking them why they need to keep an eye on what the cars are doing so they’ll know when it is safe to cross the road.
  • To raise your child’s awareness of traffic conditions near your house or your child’s school, walk with them through these areas and talk about what you are seeing, hearing and experiencing; asking your child for ideas on what they should or can do.
  • If using the children’s crossing at the school and a crossing attendant is on duty, cross the road only when they say it is safe to do so.

See VicRoads: Crossing the road safely.

Taking public transport

Some children are more ready to travel on their own to and from school than others. Before your child will be ready they’ll need skills in:

  • seeing and understanding what’s around them, who’s around them and what’s safe. Children don’t see the world the way adults do, mainly because they lack the experience we’ve developed. Also, young children may not be able to anticipate what might happen or what cars or people are likely to do
  • looking after their things, like their school bag and clothes
  • courteous behaviour, such as being polite, taking turns and waiting patiently for their turn. This is especially important if your child is catching public transport to school.

You know your child and you’ll be able to determine if they are ready to take this step. It is always a good idea to go with your child for the first few times. You may also consider having an older sibling or older child you trust to accompany your child to and from school.

Some things that you’ll need to teach your child include:

  • Always wait for the bus, tram or train to stop before they get on or get off.
  • Always wait for the bus, tram or train to leave before crossing the road or train tracks.
  • Where the bus, train or tram goes from and where they need to get off. Counting the train stations between where they get on and where they get off is one way of helping your child.
  • What to do if they miss the bus, tram or train – who they can call (a card with all your phone numbers on it tucked inside their school bag or lunch box is a good idea so your child always has this with them in emergencies) and where it’s safe to wait.

If you drive your child to the bus stop make sure you park your car on the side of the road where the bus leaves and where they will get off. This means that your child will not have to cross the road in order to get on or off the bus.

For more helpful advice and tips for parents, see: VicRoads Primary Schools

Arriving at and picking up from school

Arriving at school and picking up your child is a busy time at schools. You’ll need extra caution at these times as children are often excited and may forget all the road rules. Schools have rules around what should happen in and around the school grounds so that their students can be as safe as possible at these busy times.

You should:

  • allow plenty of time to drop off and pick up your child so that you are calm and relaxed, not in a rush
  • respect the speed limits around the school grounds
  • respect the parking signs – never double park near the school as this just causes more congestion and makes it unsafe for everyone
  • look out for other children and be aware that they may run across the road in front of you without warning.
  • always keep the children’s crossing near the school clear, as blocking the crossing makes it difficult for other children to see the road and cross safely
  • let your child know that if you’re running a few minutes late picking them up from school, they should stay in the school playground with a teacher until you arrive.

Related links

  • Student Health and Safety – bullying, protecting students on the web, drug education, Safe@work, critical incidents, child protection.
  • Safety, Security and Emergency Management – the management of safety and security within schools is paramount to the effective administration of schools.
  • Raising Children Network’s School Age Safety in a nutshell – although school-age children are more aware of safety than younger children, they still forget safety rules occasionally.
  • Kids on the Move (ppt - 1.83mb) – VicRoads road safety education resource for primary schools, giving children in Prep to Year a minimum level of road safety education
  • Bicycle Victoria’s Ride2School – designed to make riding, walking, skating and scooting the normal mode of transport for students