As the school year begins on Wednesday, children nationwide will take to the street going to and from classes. The relatively high rates of pedestrian deaths in Israel should make parents extra cautious about their children’s road awareness and encourage them to train their children in proper safety precautions, Dr. Tova Rosenbloom, head of the Phoenix Road Safety program at Bar- Ilan University’s department of management, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday.“Israel has high rates of pedestrian fatalities in traffic accidents. Roughly 30 to 40 percent of all fatalities in traffic accidents are pedestrians and of those, a high proportion is made up of children under the age of 14. Our studies indicate that in 50% of the accidents in which pedestrians were killed, the responsibility was the pedestrian’s,” Rosenbloom said.“Every day I see people taking unnecessary risks when on the road. The other day I saw a woman crossing the road, pushing a baby carriage with twins, while talking on the phone. What was so urgent that she couldn’t put the phone away for a minute?” Rosenbloom asked. “It is all a question of awareness and it’s the parents’ job to instill the proper concern for their children.” The most important precaution, according to Rosenbloom, is that children under the age of nine don’t cross the street by themselves.“We have done extensive research on the matter, based on long-term observations of children’s behavior and an in-depth analysis of casualty statistics, and determined that children under the age of nine are simply not fit to cross the road for themselves. Our research found that 40% of the children in that age bracket don’t stop and look before crossing the street. They are too easily distracted, too occupied by other things and too physically vulnerable to be allowed to cross a street by themselves,” she said.Rosenbloom added that while it was vital that children be accompanied by adults when crossing the street, it was not enough for the parents simply to be there with their children and that they should turn it into an educational experience.“Parents need to teach and train their kids on road safety behavior. Our studies revealed that children who walk with their parents tend to abandon all responsibility. We think that the parents should take advantage of the situation and transform the experience from a passive one to an active one, teach their children how to recognize proper places for crossing the road, teach them how to evaluate the distance of an upcoming vehicle, teach them basic traffic rules and things like that,” she said. Drivers should make a point of remembering to exercise extra caution when around schools and kindergartens, Rosenbloom said.“Young children are small and are not always visible, especially after dark, when they come back from after-school activities. Moreover they are impulsive and unpredictable. Even if they know and can recite all the safety rules, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will follow them. Drivers should expect the unexpected.”Rosenbloom said that many children suffer from chronic sleep deprivation and that hours in front of the television or computer could affect their alertness, especially on the way to school in the morning. She suggested that parents make sure that their children received plenty of sleep.She also suggested that parents instruct their children to remove their earphones or switch off their music players while walking to school, and definitely before crossing a street.“What we need is to re-brand road safety. I want it to be considered cool to be cautious on the road. Here in Israel we have an excellent example on how being safe is also cool - the Israel Air Force. The air force is known for being highly professional and efficient, and part of that professionalism is in the safety precautions they take. There is no reason that being road safety conscious should be seen as nerdy,” Rosenbloom said.