The best policy is not to have kids playing on the road and take them to parks and playgrounds for safe playtime. However, if they must make neighborhood roads their play areas, certain precautions and practices can minimize road risks.
You should make your kids aware of the traffic rules and ensure they know that they must not chase after objects on the streets. They should be mindful of their surroundings at all times and wear safety equipment such as knee caps and helmets when indulging in activities like bicycling. Kids should be encouraged to avoid roads and stay on pavements and yards.
It is also recommended that kids wear bright, colorful clothes, possibly with reflective material, to be easily spotted by drivers. Reflective clothing provides good visibility even in low-light conditions. Adult supervision can further enhance kids’ safety on the roads.
Another way of enhancing the safety of kids playing outdoors is by using ‘slow kids at play’ signs and placing these strategically to draw road users’ attention without causing any obstruction or legal conflicts.
‘Children at play’ signs should be posted only after consulting the local traffic authorities as there may be specific rules or restrictions around these signs. Generally speaking, these signs should not be posted such that they obstruct the right of way of road users.
Care should also be taken to ensure that posting of ‘children at play’ signs does not lead to too many signs at a place as this may confuse road users and hamper the effectiveness of all the signs. You should refrain from posting these signs on public streets but place them where children frequently play, such as private yards, areas around parks and playgrounds, etc.
It may be a good idea to place your ‘children at play’ sign at the edge of your lawn or yard to maximize visibility for drivers while not breaking any applicable rules or laws. You may also use portable ‘children at play’ signs that are often taken more seriously and provide better compliance than their permanent counterparts.
Reflective ‘children at play’ signs combine daytime conspicuity with nighttime visibility, thereby ensuring that the sign serves its intended purpose irrespective of the time of day. Reflectivity plays a key role during dusk time when kids are often playing outside. Additionally, according to the MUTCD and the local traffic authorities, reflectivity is a requirement for road traffic signs.
A ‘slow children at play’ sign should be large enough to catch a motorist's attention and remind them to slow down for children who may be on or entering the roadway. 12” x 18” and 18” x 24” are the most preferred sizes for these signs. While there are no guidelines on the federal level regarding the size of ‘slow children at play’ signs, your local agency may have specific standards in place that your sign should conform to.
While the MUTCD does not include a standard or any guidelines around ‘kids at play’ signs, it does say this about warning signs — “The purpose of a warning sign is to provide advance warning
to the road user of unexpected conditions on or adjacent to the roadway that might not be readily apparent.”
State and/or local traffic agencies may prescribe certain rules or requirements for these signs. For instance, the ‘children at play’ sign (NYW 7-4) can be found in the New York State Supplement in Section 2C.112. It states that ‘children at play’ signs may be used at locations where, due to unusual conditions, motorists might not expect children to be playing in the vicinity of the roadway.
Although not covered in the MUTCD, these signs are usually put up by traffic agencies on request as many parents do trust the effectiveness of these signs in alerting drivers and slowing down traffic. You may find more information about it in this resource.
That being said, these signs should not be the only measure taken for the safety of children. Thorough knowledge of traffic rules, road safety protocols, and best practices, along with adequate adult supervision as needed, are equally important.