THE BLOG
08/29/2014 08:10 EDT | Updated 10/29/2014 05:59 EDT

How to Reduce Child Fatalities On the Road

JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images

I usually don't talk about the unbelievably heart-breaking things I sometimes see at work, or the countless, amazing families I am blessed to meet every day. On a warm July night this year I was one of the many staff working at Sick Kids when I was witness to a parents' worst nightmare, the preventable death of a child struck by a van on a Toronto street. I was immensely proud to be a physician at the Hospital for Sick Children that night, as the first responders, doctors, nurses, and many health care providers supported the grieving family and one another in the aftermath.

Sometimes a loss such as this enables a community to come together to find meaning in something so horrifying.

Much is written online about this horrifying event and the tragic death of Georgia Walsh. Sometimes a loss such as this enables a community to come together to find meaning in something so horrifying. In this instance, a grieving community has created a campaign to make our streets safer for our kids. I am so thankful that something amazing is coming of this unimaginable loss.

It is meant to remind us that we have to find a way for our streets and children to coexist safely.

If you live in the GTA you may have noticed one of the many signs on your neighbors' lawns with the background of a boy and a girl either in black, white or colour. The colored imagery has a neighborhood streetscape within the child silhouette to highlight how the two are connected. It is meant to remind us that we have to find a way for our streets and children to coexist safely. Inside the silhouette is a simple mantra -- Slow Down, Kids At Play. I hope you have seen many. Concerned Leaside residents have created the non-profit organization Kids at Play to "give the residents of cities a collective voice with which to speak out against careless driving."

The goal: urge drivers to slow down in residential areas to prevent further accidents like Georgia's. The group explains, this is "a reminder to all drivers that this is a neighbourhood community first and a thoroughfare second" and we have "a collective commitment to drive responsibly." This simple message is clear -- stop speeding and watch where you are driving. For a small donation you can have your own sign, as I proudly display on my own lawn. Soon community schools will proudly adorn flags out front urging drivers to slow down and watch for pedestrians.

The goal: urge drivers to slow down in residential areas to prevent further accidents like Georgia's.

Each time I am out, I see more of these daily. Some streets are lined with them, likely from a generous neighbour who brought several to the area. I hope the city will soon be covered in these signs. But not just for the sake of the campaign, but for the real intended success of reducing pedestrian-related injuries and deaths.

As a parent this has also re-enforced the absolute necessity of teaching and re-teaching our children and their caregivers about road safety.

• Children younger than 12 years of age should never cross streets without a caregiver present. Kids younger than this have difficulty assessing the speed and distance of cars, putting them at risk.

• Consider talking to your kids about walking only on sidewalks or paths, using traffic signals and crosswalks.

• Remind children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and to watch for cars that are turning or backing up.

• Teach your children to put down electronic devices and look left, right and left again when crossing the street. My mother-in law taught our kids "look left, look right, use your eyes and use your ears before you use your feet"

• When driving, appropriately sized, developmentally appropriate car seats should be used with consistency, even for brief rides.

Tragedy can strike in a brief second, literally. I hope these signs will reduce driver speeds, but we must also take care to educate our little ones about safe outdoor play. Perhaps armed with this, those of us on the front line will see fewer unimaginable injuries.

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