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Effectiveness: 3 Star Cost: $
Use: Unknown
Time: Short

Elementary school pedestrian training equips school-age children with knowledge and practice to enable them to walk safely in environments with traffic and other safety hazards. NHTSA and the States have developed elementary school pedestrian training programs over the years. NHTSA’s “Willy Whistle” pedestrian safety videos were updated to “Stop and Look and Listen with Willy Whistle” (2008) for grades K-2, emphasizing to look left-right-left before crossing. “Getting There Safely” (2014) for grades 3 to 6 emphasizes critical thinking with walking around traffic. Both videos are best used in conjunction with some discussion allowing for questions/answers and clarification. The Willy Whistle video is available at and Getting There Safely at

WalkSafe, a program adapted from many earlier resources, was implemented initially as a 5-day program in a high-risk district in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and later as a 3-day program in all 220 Miami-Dade County elementary schools as part of a comprehensive effort to address pedestrian crashes in the county (Zegeer, Blomberg, et al., 2008).

In 2011 NHTSA produced a Child Pedestrian Safety Curriculum for elementary school students along with an instructor guide (see The curriculum includes five lesson plans for each grade group, K-1, 2-3, and 4-5, with developmentally appropriate lessons and messages that also address standards of learning, caregiver tip sheets, skills practice exercises, and student tests to evaluate knowledge change. The curriculum was pilot-tested in schools when it was developed. Thomas, Blomberg, and Korbelak (2017) detail its formal evaluation.

School-based programs are useful to teach basic pedestrian concepts and safe behaviors at schools, faith-based settings, and other institutions with groups of elementary-age children. Pedestrian safety programs are especially important for children such as those from lower-income families and neighborhoods, or those who may be more likely to make risky decisions and are less able to control their behavior (Barton & Schwebel, 2007). A study from Australia identified younger ages, and attentional and developmental issues including hyperactivity and inattentiveness as factors in unsafe road-crossing decisions by children. Children who had some independent walking experience were less likely to make incorrect decisions (Congiu et al., 2008).

Other resources that may be used independently or in a group setting include an online, video-training resource, Pedestrian Safer Journey, developed for the FHWA. This resource provides video-based training modules for child pedestrians 5 to 9, 10 to 14, and 15 to 18; teachers’ material including discussion guides. This information is available on the PBIC website at In addition, the National Center for Safe Routes to School hosts extensive educational resources including Teaching Children to Walk Safely as They Grow and Develop: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, with learning objectives and tips for caregivers of children 4 and older. This resource can be found at Other resources and tips for educators, parents, drivers, children, and even neighbors are available at

Resources are also available to help parents become role models and provide on-going practice and positive reinforcement. As mentioned in Section 1.1 on preschool age children, NHTSA has several brochures to educate parents and caregivers on child pedestrian safety, including Preventing Pedestrian Crashes: Parents and Caregivers of Preschool Children and Elementary School Children ( Safe Kids Worldwide also has tips for caregivers and links to other resources (

Use: Unknown. Information has been available for years, and distributed widely, but not necessarily as part of a systematic or national program. In addition, much material and resources have been updated to new technologies and formats such as interactive internet resources and video trainings. With schools being called on for a wider variety of services and narrower set of teaching requirements, finding time to add child traffic safety modules may be difficult. Newer technologies and information formats may help expand the reach of training information. Some States are adapting existing curriculum or developing curriculum to meet their State’s Standards of Learning; this allows teachers to use pedestrian (and bicycle) educational material to correlate with meeting the establish minimum expectations for what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade or course in English, mathematics, science, history/social science and other subjects.

Effectiveness: Child pedestrian training programs have been shown to increase knowledge. Long-lasting behavior improvements may be harder to achieve. Evaluations of 5-day and 3-day WalkSafe programs in the Miami school district that used videos, formal curricula, workbooks, and outside simulation activities on an imaginary road on school grounds showed improvements in safety knowledge compared to before, although no control group was used in the evaluation. Improvements were more consistent for grades K-3 than for 4 and 5. Actual in-traffic behaviors were also reportedly improved in the short term, but did not hold up at 3 months after the program and no comparison group was used (Hotz et al., 2004; Hotz et al., 2009). In a study of the longer-term impacts of the WalkSafe program, knowledge and behavior of more than 1,500 students receiving a one-time per year WalkSafe instruction were evaluated over 2 years (Livingston et al., 2011). While short- and intermediate-term knowledge retention was observed among all grades, long-term (i.e., more than a year) knowledge retention of pedestrian safety behaviors were observed only among children moving from 3rd to 4th grade. Knowledge change did not appear to result in improved pedestrian behaviors. The authors concluded that repetition and reinforcement may be needed for long-term knowledge and behavior change, as well as engagement by caregivers. The North Carolina DOT adapted NHTSA’s child pedestrian safety curriculum and launched the pedestrian bicycle safety program, “Let’s GO NC!” An examination of the effectiveness of the program showed that the program increased students’ self-reported pedestrian knowledge and supervised crossing behaviors in simulated street crossing situations (Thomas et al., 2017). Older students (Grade 3-5) showed greater improvements in knowledge and behavior compared to younger students (Grade K-2).

Another study by Gates et al. (2010) also indicates the importance of repetition in school-based trainings. In a study of 930 students in grades 2 to 7 in Detroit, pedestrian safety training was provided once and then again seven to 12 months later. Measures of safety violations gathered by observing street-crossing behaviors before and after the trainings, as well as knowledge change based on pre/post tests were collected. After the initial training, both test scores and observed behaviors improved, but were only partially sustained. Once retraining occurred, there were increases in test scores, and the cumulative difference (after initial training and retraining) was consistently larger than the impact of initial training alone for both test scores and observational behavioral measures. One trial suggested that video-based training may be an effective method for conveying knowledge and appropriate behaviors (Arbogast et al., 2014), although neither before (baseline) nor long-term behavioral observations were conducted. Another study suggested that virtual and roadside training are more effective than videos for improving behaviors (Schwebel, McClure, & Severson, 2014), but more research is needed. Reach, feasibility, and cost are also factors to consider.

Barton et al. (2007) reported that children crossed a road more safely immediately following a brief pedestrian safety training that included instruction followed by practice crossings on a pretend road. Schwebel et al. (2016) implemented street-crossing training for children 7 and 8 over a 3-week period. The training involved six sessions of 45 crossings in a virtual pedestrian environment, and subsequent evaluation showed that the training decreased unsafe crossing and departure delays, while increasing their observation of traffic compared to baseline pre-intervention performance. In the United Kingdom, a combination of adult-led training and peer discussions for children 5 to 8 led to improved roadside search skills (Tolmie et al., 2005). In a small study of mostly middle-class preschool children, Albert and Dolgin (2010) also reported that 4- and 5-year-olds trained by adults in groups of 3 or 4 using a “playmat” model retained real-world behavioral (street crossing choices) improvement 6 months later compared to peers trained using two other less interactive methods or who received no training. According to the authors, the success of this treatment may lie in the opportunities for peer collaboration and corrective feedback from the adult trainers.

Thus, numerous studies suggest that knowledge and behaviors of young children may be improved through education and training programs, but that behavior in real-world traffic situations is more likely to be modified if the program incorporates interactive training with opportunities for practice and positive reinforcement (Percer, 2009). Effectiveness of school-based child pedestrian training would also likely be enhanced if it combined child training with emphasis to teachers, parents, and other caregivers on the limits of children and the need for careful supervision, particularly for those younger than 10 years (see Section 1.2).

Costs: NHTSA publications are free for download, and can be distributed at low expense.

Time to implement: Short, once a decision is made by a school district to offer such a program. Time is needed to review the recommended material, work it into the school’s existing curriculum, and train teachers. The training needs to be repeatedly implemented to sustain effectiveness.

Other issues:

    • A consensus from reviews is that practical training—that is, learning by doing with reinforcement of correct behaviors—is the most effective way for children to learn traffic safety skills (Bruce & McGrath, 2005; Dragutinovic & Twisk, 2006; Percer, 2009). The need for experiential learning is especially key for younger children who lack the capacity to generalize concepts and need to practice in environments with real objects that are as close as possible to those they will experience (Dragutinovic & Twisk, 2006). Although it can be done with adult supervision, real-world practice may be difficult to achieve with large groups of school children and without undue exposure to traffic risks.
    • Classroom education may be enhanced by using outdoor simulation, three-dimensional models, games, or other interactive learning methods such as with computer games and models, particularly in adult-led and small-group activities. These methods do not replace real-world practice but evidence from a few studies suggests that interactive training with opportunities for feedback, correction, and practice (more than one session) may lead to more lasting behavior improvements (Tolmie et al., 2005; Albert & Dolgin, 2009).
    • Hammond et al. (2014) found that trainers often modified the training from recommended best practices in a program (“Kerbcraft”) developed to provide roadside training for 5- to 7-year-olds in the United Kingdom. This deviation seems to have been toward conserving resources by conducting shorter trainings and introducing more classroom elements than the program recommended. It isn’t clear, however, if the adaptations diminish effectiveness, but that is certainly a risk since the modifications have not been evaluated. The other possible implication is that the longer, all-roadside training may not be practical for consistent implementation (Hammond et al., 2014). It is important that whenever programs are modified, however, that the changed program is also evaluated to ensure continued effectiveness.