At what age can a child cross the road on their own?

More than 1,400 mums told us what age they'd let their children cross the street alone - plus, advice from the experts

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In a nutshell: Age 10 is when most people would let their child cross the road on their own (we polled 1,427 parents).

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Realistically, by the time your child’s at secondary school, they’ll probably be going out and about on their own a fair bit – so chances are you won’t be there to hold their hand anymore when they’re crossing the road.

But at what age do you imagine you’ll let yours navigate crossings on their own?

We asked our MFM mums this question, and got more than 1,400 responses with:

  • most (26%) saying they’d let their children start crossing the road at 10 years of age
  • 19% saying they’d let them do it aged 8
  • and a few (3% and 1%) saying they’d let them do it as young as 5 or 6 years old.

Here’s the full rundown of answers…

At what age would you let your child cross the road on their own? Here’s how our mums responded…

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When we asked our mums for comments, lots agreed that road crossing was one thing they really struggled with letting their children do – purely because of the safety aspect.

“I am a bit protective so would need to be 100% sure they are road safe,” said one mum. Lots agreed it very much depended on the child – and the road, like this mum:

“I let him cross minor roads in the street but wouldn’t let him cross a main road till he was much older.”

And one of our mums who let her 6 year-old cross on their own did add that she made sure she was always watching.

This tag cloud shows some of the key words that came up from comments on this topic…

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So, what age is it safe for your child to cross the road alone? The expert advice

A 2017 study by Iowa University – where some pretty rigorous research was carried out – suggests that road accidents among children happen in part because kids are still developing their motor skills and visual judgment until they reach the age of 14.

(This might have been the research on of the mums from our survey had read when she commented: “I read somewhere that children can’t judge distances accurately until they are at least 12 years old.

“Yet we send them off to Secondary School on buses and expect them to cross busy roads!”

The research used a simulated traffic environment, and showed that accident rates can be around 8% among 6 year olds, and 2% among 12 year olds – and it was only when children reached young adolescence that they can cross with no incidents at all.

“Some people think younger children may be able to perform like adults when crossing the street,” says Professor Jodie Plumert.

“Our study shows that’s not necessarily the case on busy roads where traffic doesn’t stop.”

The professor found young children misjudged the gaps between traffic when trying to cross, in a simulated 3D experiment, which caused accidents, as well as keenness from younger children to cross the road.

Perceptual ability (a child’s ability to judge how fast cars were going and gaps between cars) and motor skills (how quickly a child stepped onto the road to cross after a car had passed) were big factors in the accidents.

So advice is to teach children to be patient and to choose to cross in wider traffic gaps than an adult would.

How to teach road safety to your child

  • Never let children under 8 go out alone or cross the road by themselves.
  • Always ensure younger children walk on your ‘inside’ away from the kerb.
  • Never let her run ahead – there may be hidden entrances or gateways.
  • Make sure she knows the curb is the edge of the pavement and that she should always stop at the kerb.
  • Explain what traffic is, that the road is for traffic and the pavement is for people.
  • Involve your child in the decision-making processes and ask her to help you decide when to cross the road.
  • Make sure she understands ‘stop’ and ‘go’, and the symbols for each at pelican crossings.
  • Make sure she understands zebra crossings and that she must make sure all the traffic has come to a stop before starting to cross.
  • Always use crossings with your child and never jay walk.
  • Start up a ‘walking school bus’ in your area where parents volunteer to pick up children at appointed ‘bus stops’ and take them safely to school on foot.

Image: Getty Images

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