Road safety education begins in childhood. Most of us can remember reaching out our hand for a grown-up when first crossing the street. Yelling “CAR!” to move our game of street hockey. Riding our bikes to the local convenience store to buy a Slush Puppy. Our parents probably told us early on, “Look both ways before crossing the street!”. But as our neighbourhoods and streets expand with time, road safety education becomes more than just a reminder to look both ways before stepping onto a busy road.
In Canada, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death and disability among children (1–19 years), with traffic injury making up the largest portion (45%) of injury fatalities (Yao et al., 2019). While road injuries have decreased over time, pedestrian injuries have not decreased in proportion and currently constitute a significant share of such injuries. In 2021 (the most recent dataset available), there were 57 fatalities and 5,303 injuries of children aged 0-14 years old from vehicle collisions. On average in Canada, there are 43 fatalities and 3,000 serious injuries to child pedestrians a year. (Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics: 2021)
Education around road safety is crucial in young children and should be delivered in an age-appropriate way for kids to fully understand. Younger children need to develop the cognitive and physical skills to make safe judgments about road crossing and traffic. They can navigate simple street structure but the skills to navigate more complex environments develop around the ages of 9 to 11. (Parachute) What this means is that educational programs geared towards children need to evolve and develop as their understanding of these concepts grow.
Our RoadSMARTS4Kids (RS4K) program, launched in 2022, was developed with the idea of creating free educational resources that are tailored specifically to children. RS4K makes learning important road safety concepts, skills and awareness fun and engaging to elementary age children.
RoadSMARTS4Kids includes downloadable teacher modules that are free, easy to use and satisfy Ministry curriculum requirements. Each “30-minute program in a can” is available for children from JK to Grade 6, tailored specifically to the conceptual understanding of kids at that age. They include lesson prep materials, lesson scripts, PowerPoint presentations, short videos, and supporting activity sheets. They cover a variety of road safety topics such as cycling, walking, sharing our roads, booster seat safety and preparing to walk places alone for the first time.
Parents, guardians, and teachers can also access our RoadSMARTS E-cademy, a suite of virtual courses for kids in JK to Grade 6. Teachers can register a roster of accounts for their entire class to complete the E-cademy, or parents can register their kids at home. Don’t have access to computers/laptops for all your students? We also offer teacher-led versions of the e-learning courses that can be presented to a class using a smartboard or projector. Each course takes 20-40 minutes to complete, and includes fun videos, quizzes, and a completion certificate.
Equipping our kids with the knowledge and confidence to be safe pedestrians is the steppingstone to them becoming safe drivers. The foundation built with the RS4K programs will serve them – and our communities – for years to come.
For more information, or to register your child or classroom, visit www.ottawasafetycouncil.ca/rs4k