Extension Specialist, Family Life Education
Cape Cod Extension
University of Massachusetts
Why do so many young accident victims carefully look to the left
and to the right – and then dash straight into an oncoming car?
Safety experts know something that parents and teachers don't.
Children depend on magic to protect them from danger, rather than
their senses and common sense. The familiar “look left, look
right, look left again before you cross the road” is just
a charm to young kids, according to experts in the Florida Department
of Education. Kids use it as if it were a magical incantation
that protects them.
The young also put a lot of faith in crosswalks, but to them it's
an abracadabra-type thing. They think that the crosswalk magically
Adults should not rely on logical explanations to make a young
child obey safety rules. A better tactic with toddlers is an absolute
prohibition such as, “No. You may not do that.”
Instead of allowing kindergarten children and first-graders to
turn the “left, right, left” street-crossing rule into
a rhythmic head-nodding exercise signifying nothing, have the
child identify something up on the road to the left. That way
they're not just nodding their heads in time to the required ritual.
But surely kids understand the purpose of stoplights! Not necessarily.
In a study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, 31
percent of children waiting at a traffic light were unable to
tell the researcher when it was safe to cross the street. This
was a strikingly high proportion since each child had a 50/50
chance of being right simply by guessing.
National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the
National Extension Service
Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission
is granted to reproduce
these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only
(not for profit beyond the cost of
reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment
and this notice is
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child
Care – NNCC.
(1993). Look to the left, look to the right. In M. Lopes (Ed.)
News (May, p. 3). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts
Any additions or changes to these materials must be preapproved
by the author .
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ENTRY DATE:: July 1995
UPDATED:: May 1998
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