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FHWA > Programs > Office of Policy > Office of International Programs  > Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Mobility in Europe > Education Elements

Education Elements

In the context of this report, education means informing road users about traffic regulations and safe and appropriate behavior. Many of the education programs discussed during the scanning study were for pedestrians and bicyclists, but motorist education was also mentioned.

Traffic Safety Education for Children

Many of the foreign hosts had extensive traffic safety education programs for children. The programs involve participation from a wide variety of organizations. The most–often–mentioned program was a Children’s Traffic Club that provided ongoing, age–appropriate safety material to parents and children, as well as fun learning activities.

For example, the Danish Road Safety Council operates a Children’s Traffic Club in Denmark.7 When they reach age 3, all Danish children receive an offer of membership to the club. About 30 percent of parents register their children for membership. Club members receive a traffic package including a training booklet and toys every 6 months until they reach age . The club has existed for more than 30 years. Also, since 1994, road safety education has been mandatory in Denmark’s lower and secondary primary (elementary and middle) schools. Local discretion is used to determine how and when classes should take place.

The United Kingdom has a similar Children’s Traffic Club8 modeled after successful programs in Norway and Sweden. The United Kingdom Children’s Traffic Club (figure 38) is designed to teach 3– and 4–year old children about road safety. In the United Kingdom, the voluntary program is offered by local road safety or public health authorities who wish to make the safety education material available in their area. The materials are offered free to parents or caregivers, and the typical participation rate is 60 percent in areas where it is offered. When children become members of the club, they receive a series of six books through the mail (one about every 3 months), as well as stickers, information about competitions, and a membership certificate. Additional safety education materials for home and group settings are also available through the United Kingdom Children’s Traffic Club.

Figure 38. Screen shot of Children’s Traffic Club Web site.
Figure 38. Children’s Traffic Club Web site in the United Kingdom.
Source: www.trafficclub.co.uk Flash (sizes vary) PDF (1 MB)

As part of Bristol’s Cycling City national demonstration, officials plan to offer the Bikeability bicycle safety program.9 Bikeability is a government–approved, nationally recognized bicycle safety training and education program that has been standardized and is maintained by the United Kingdom’s Cycle Training Safety Board. The Bikeability program is voluntary and consists of three levels:

  • Level 1 — For children up to age 9, it teaches basic skills in a playground environment.
  • Level 2 — For children aged 9 to 11, it teaches intermediate skills on low–volume streets.
  • Level 3 — For children older than 11 and adults, it teaches advanced skills on all road types.

Also part of the Cycling City national demonstration, the city of Bristol offers the Bike It program to local schools. The Bike It program, developed by Sustrans (the United Kingdom’s leading sustainable transport charity) to educate and promote biking to school,10 is offered at numerous locations in the United Kingdom. The goal of Bike It is to create a procycling culture in schools that continues long after the Bike It officers have finished their work. The Bike It program is intended to work directly with schools by helping schools make the case for cycling in school travel plans, supporting cycling champions in schools, and demonstrating that cycling is a popular choice among children and parents. The city of Winterthur, Switzerland, uses a "traffic garden" (a landscaped, reduced–scale closed course that includes traffic signals, roundabouts, bike lanes at intersections, sidewalks, work zones, public benches, and other common traffic situations) to teach elementary school–age children to ride bikes safely in traffic (figures 39 and 40). In operation since 1978, the traffic training area is run by the city police department with plantings maintained by a local garden club.

Figure 39. Aerial photo of reduced–scale closed course for traffic safety education for children.
Figure 39. Aerial view of reduced–scale closed course for traffic safety education for children in Winterthur, Switzerland.
Source: GOOGLE MAPS, http://maps.google.com

Figure 40. Photos of children participating in traffic safety education on closed course.
Figure 40. Photos of children participating in traffic safety education on closed course.
Figure 40. Closed–course traffic safety education for children in Winterthur, Switzerland.
Source: Presentation by Stefan Gerber, City of Winterthur, Switzerland

Transport for London has developed several road safety education campaigns specifically targeted to teenagers:

  • Don’t die before you’ve lived.
  • Don’t let your friendship die on the road.
  • Look after your mates.

The campaigns are distributed though television and print media (posters, billboards, etc.) and typically feature a provocative, attention–grabbing image (figure 41). Transport for London staff use a fairly elaborate process for developing safety education campaigns (which are all components of the branded THINK! traffic safety campaign). They typically have a target road user group (e.g., teenagers, truck drivers, bicyclists, etc.) for each campaign that is based on recent crash statistics and trends. Private marketing companies are involved in the creative development, while Transport for London marketing staff ensures that the creative story fits with the overall road safety theme. After the campaign material has been released, Transport for London conducts followup studies to test target audience message recognition and understanding. In some cases, future releases of the same campaign may be refined to be more effective within certain demographic groups.

Traffic Safety Education for Adults

The scan team observed higher levels of bicycle helmet use than expected in the countries visited. Helmets were uniformly encouraged for children and adults. Most countries emphasized physical activity first and helmets second. Their rationale was that required helmet use discourages bicycling (physical activity), which could have a greater public health detriment than head injuries resulting from crashes. Bicycle helmet use was recognized not as a crash–prevention measure, but as the most effective countermeasure for preventing head injury from a crash.

Copenhagen and the neighboring city of Frederiksberg cooperate on traffic safety education campaigns (in Danish, Byens Trafikråd).11 In the past few years, these campaigns have included the following:

  • Providing free reflective vests and reflectors for children and adults
  • City police providing free bicycle headlights to bicyclists without headlights
  • Providing free bicycle helmets
  • Educating bicyclists about blind spots when trucks turn right
  • Educating bicyclists about riding in the "door zone" next to parked cars

Motorist Education and Awareness Programs

The United Kingdom appeared to have the most extensive motorist education and awareness programs among all the countries visited during the scanning study. The United Kingdom’s Department for Transport has a single unifying brand called THINK! for its road safety education program.12 The THINK! brand incorporates numerous focus areas targeted to improve safety for various road user groups, such as cyclists, pedestrians, children, teenage drivers, and motorcyclists. The most recent national pedestrian campaign, called Tales of the Road,13 includes an interactive Web site for children and other media (television, cinema, and online advertising).

Transport for London has released several motorist awareness videos under the THINK! brand.14 The first campaign showed a moonwalking bear in the midst of two fourperson teams passing basketballs, with instructions to count the number of passes a particular team made. Most viewers were so intent on counting the number of basketball passes that they did not see the bear,15 a phenomenon called attention blindness. The campaign tagline is "It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for: Look out for cyclists." Subsequent videos from Transport for London have been modeled after the British genre of "Whodunit" murder mysteries.

Key Findings

Key findings related to education are as follows:

Figure 41. Road safety campaign ad showing girl dancing on a street. Ad reads: "Milly Chan, future lead in Swan Lake. Don’t die before you’ve lived. Every day a teenager is killed or seriously injured on London roads."Road safety campaign ad showing girl lying in the street. Ad reads: Don’t let your friendship die on the road. Look out for your mates.
Figure 41. Transport for London’s pedestrian road safety campaign for teenagers.
Source: Presentation by Nick Baker, Transport for London

  • Many of the foreign hosts have pervasive and widespread traffic safety education programs for all children. The education programs start at an early age and some continue through the teenage years. These traffic safety programs involve participation from a wide variety of organizations, including schools, businesses, civic organizations, police, public health groups, and parks and recreation departments. For example, several countries had a Children’s Traffic Club program that provided ongoing, age–appropriate safety material to parents and children, as well as fun learning activities. Also, most pedestrian and bicyclist safety education programs were integrated into the overall traffic safety program.
  • The use of a single brand appeared to be effective at connecting various traffic safety education efforts. For example, the United Kingdom’s THINK! brand has several focus areas with a common theme. U.K. officials believe that the single brand helps the public identify all traffic safety issues (including pedestrian and bicyclist safety) as related and important.

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