How Young is Too Young to Walk to School?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on September 19, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For many children, walking to school is a daily activity. For many American children, the exercise may be a welcome excursion. But for parents who let their child walk to school, are they actually violating child endangerment laws?

How old should kids be before they are allowed to walk to school without parental supervision?

And, are parents liable for what happens to their kids on these walks?

Federally, there is no law that specifically mandates that children be a certain age before they can walk to school alone.

But parents need to be cautious about letting kids go out on these unsupervised walks. After all, predators could be lurking on their route. Or, kids can be careless when crossing streets.

Parents who willfully fail to provide their children with adequate supervision might actually be violating child abuse and child neglect laws, depending on what state they are in.

What can parents do to ensure child safety? They might want to be positive that their children are well-versed in all manners of traffic situations. For example, they might want to make sure that they instruct children on what to do at an intersection with a stop sign versus an intersection with an actual stoplight.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that children under the age of 10 are generally not ready to cross a street alone, according to SafeRoutes.

Parents should be cautioned that letting kids go wandering off alone when they clearly are not ready to take unsupervised walks could be violating child endangerment laws. Kids walking to school can be safe and legal, but it's up to a parent to use their discretion to determine when their children are ready.

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