1.1 Children’s Safety Clubs
Overall Effectiveness Concerns: This countermeasure has been examined in a small number of research studies. The research suggests that this countermeasure does not translate into crash and injury reductions.
Young children have limited abilities to perceive, understand, and react appropriately to traffic hazards, and they have greater difficulty finding safe places to cross along the roadway (Percer, 2009). A primary purpose of children’s safety clubs is to help parents and caregivers become more involved in educating young children about safe walking practices. Related goals are to help promote ongoing, age-appropriate training, and safe attitudes towards traffic (Gregersen & Nolen, 1994). An equally important objective of safety clubs is for parents and other caregivers to recognize children’s limits and capabilities, and to understand their obligation to provide adequate supervision and control (Gregersen & Nolen, 1994).
Motor vehicle crashes involving preschool children often involve slow-moving vehicles, frequently backing up in driveways and parking lots (Agran et al., 1994; Olson et al., 1993). From 2008 to 2011 there were 883 children 14 and younger killed in non-traffic-related crashes in which they were not occupants of vehicles (Singh et al., 2014). Of these fatalities, 104 involved forward moving vehicles, 95 backing vehicles, 7 driverless vehicles, and 15 involved other types, such as children struck near disabled or parked vehicles. A majority (84%) of these children were age 4 or younger. These statistics are from the most recent release of these data, and it remains important to teach children age-appropriate lessons about traffic and motor vehicles. It is even more important that parents and caregivers take direct responsibility and supervise young children carefully near roadways or in any areas where vehicles may be in use (Rivara et al., 1989). See also the following section, Section 1.2, for more information on supervision.
Parents are the primary role models and educators for their children. Research in the United Kingdom has examined the interactions and messages between parents and children with regard to road safety (Green et al., 2008). The researchers found that while parents feel competent to the task, they were inconsistent role models and lacked knowledge of best approaches and messages to train their children. Moreover, parents did not take full advantage of opportunities to teach while walking, and attention was focused more on controlling their children’s behavior than teaching, particularly under higher risk situations (Green et al., 2008; see also Percer, 2009). In Israel a road-safety education program for children was conducted at select kindergartens; a survey reported it increased child-safety awareness among parents of participating children relative to parents who had children not in the program (Ben-Bassat & Avnieli, 2016).
The main development of safety clubs took place in Europe years ago, but they have not been adopted broadly in the United States. In many European programs children may be enrolled in a traffic safety club when they reach their third birthday. Books on traffic safety are then sent to the child every 6 months until they reach 5 years or older (Dragutinovic & Twisk, 2006), but other print or electronic media could be provided, bearing in mind that the intent is to engage both the parent and child. There do not appear to be any national or statewide standards, models, or curricula.
For a British traffic club source, see The Children's Traffic Club, www.childrenstrafficclub.com. The United Kingdom’s Department of Transport released a set of games called Tales of the Road to teach children about road safety, http://talesoftheroad.direct.gov.uk.
Similar websites are available from the following
- Scotland: https://roadsafety.scot/ziggy-toolkit/
- Australia: www.det.wa.edu.au/ccm-ldn-theme-assets/__ccm__/themes-prod/sdera/flash/road_safety_games/index.html
- Renault: www.safety-mobility-for-all-the-game.com
Use: The extent of use of child safety clubs in the United States is unknown.
Effectiveness: Safety clubs are one way to teach and promote an understanding of a specific set of appropriate pedestrian behaviors for young children. However, the knowledge and skill benefits have not been found to translate into crash and injury reductions (Dragutinovic & Twisk, 2006; Gregersen & Nolen, 1994; West et al., 1993). The one study that evaluated effects on self- reported crashes found a negative result, but concluded that no impact on crashes could be inferred (Gregersen & Nolen, 1994).
Costs: The costs would depend on the cost of material and delivery and whether the families are charged anything for participation. In most of the clubs, enrollment is free to the participants; some charge a fee for enrollment (Dragutinovic & Twisk, 2006). If integrated into preschool programs, training for teachers may be needed.
Time to implement: Before a safety club program could be implemented, program material must be located and adapted as necessary. Following that, a modest time period would be needed to arrange for material, identify target recipients, disseminate information, and train teachers as needed.
- A challenge would be to garner high enrollment among families with lower socio-economic status and low-car-ownership. Participation in child safety clubs has been found to be lower among low SES groups in European countries (Dragutinovic & Twisk, 2006).
- It is up to parents and caregivers of young children to use material appropriately and a lack of control makes it difficult to monitor or assess results.
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