I live on a quiet cul-de-sac in the Virginia suburbs. Do I really need to supervise my children while they play outside?

There are many good reasons for living in suburban Virginia: great schools, low crime rates and (somewhat) more affordable housing. But northern Virginia neighborhoods have one problem—traffic. Drivers leave 95 and they forget to slow down.

Suburban traffic can be dangerous, so families often choose to live on cul-de-sacs. Virginia cul-de-sacs tend to be shorter streets that end in a circle of homes. Most people believe that these dead-end neighborhoods are safe because there is little through traffic and the residents tend to know each other. But cul-de-sac communities actually have some of the highest rates of traffic accidents involving young children. In fact, children in suburban communities are five times more likely to be killed in a pedestrian accident than urban children.

William Lucy, a professor at the University of Virginia, says that most of these accidents involve young children under the age of five. The main cause of death is being backed over, often by a family member or friend. The second leading cause of death is “frontovers.”

Why do these accidents happen? Parents believe they live in a safe and quiet neighborhood. They allow their children to play with loose supervision. Mothers chat or check email on their phones while children run from yard to yard. But children don’t realize the difference between a yard and a driveway or a sidewalk and the street. They are focused on play.

Pedestrian accidents also occur in the city, but drivers these accidents are more likely to involve adults. Cars in the city travel at slower speeds, so accidents are less likely to be fatal.

Virginia traffic law recognizes that children behave unpredictably and impulsively. Drivers must use extra care in areas where children play. Remember to put away your phone and slow down when driving in residential neighborhoods. If you have young children, make sure they are supervised when playing outside.

If your child is in an accident, call for help immediately. Lewis & Tompkins’ free accident app can help you report the accident, get medical care, and keep track of your child’s information. Click here to get the Personal Accident Report app for DC/VA/MD residents.

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