Key to road safety is in parents’ hands

Workshop on safe practices on road held for students and guardians to drive home message what elders show 
now is what kids do later

By Afshan Ahmed

Published: Tue 6 Jul 2010, 10:04 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:08 AM

Diana M., mother of eight-year-old Alina, never drives out of the parking lot without fastening the seatbelt, even if it’s just a trip to the local grocery. She also does not allow her daughter to sit in the front seat of the car and makes sure she is buckled up at the back.

Roly Hermans giving road safety tips to students at Ain Jaloot Primary School for Girls at Al Shahama in Abu Dhabi. — KT photo by Iftikhar Shaheedi

“And speeding on the roads is a big no-no,” she adds.

Her daughter has to follow conscious safety decisions such as these, says the Dubai-based working mother.

“What they see us doing is what they learn to do,” she said.

“The school and parents play a big role in imbibing safety habits (in children).”

Parents and teachers are role models for children, making it essential for grown-ups to practise the road safety habits they preach.

At the Ain Jaloot School in Al-Shahama, Abu Dhabi last week, parents, teachers and students aged between six and 10 were introduced to a miniature city where road safety was taught with practical examples. It is one of the 26 schools that will host a workshop on road safety education being conducted by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), the Abu Dhabi Police and Educating Global, an education consultancy.

“This is a summer school initiative where we developed a course on road safety and have trained the teachers to deliver it,” said Roly Hermans, education specialist and trainer at the workshop. Teachers were taught safety measures, who then passed on the messages, like buckling up when in a vehicle and being aware while crossing the street, to the parents and students.

“Bringing parents on board is very important as their attitude is essential to the success of the programme,” Hermans added.

The workshops are in response to the increase in the number of deaths of children in traffic accidents. According to a study conducted by Dr Michal Grivna, associate professor of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the UAE University, found that 63 per cent of the mortality cases among children up to the age of 14 were caused by road accidents.

A majority of those children were also found to be unstrapped when in the front or rear seat of the car.

Another survey conducted in the GCC by BMW Group Middle East on the issue of road safety revealed that a majority considered it important for children to use restraints in the vehicle but more than 37 per cent of those surveyed didn’t use them with most admitting to driving with their children in the driver’s seat. Driving with a child younger than 10 in the front passenger seat is also illegal in the UAE.

“Creating child-friendly environments through innovative integrated legislation and its enforcement combined with training and education have the potential to eliminate most injuries and deaths in traffic accidents,” Dr Grivna said.

Taking an actual model of a school, students were acquainted with sections of a road, bus manners, seatbelt use, how to cross the road safely and taking decisions while in a busy area during the workshop.

“Children can get confused in situations that are unknown to them,” said the road safety trainer. “For example, a route that he or she normally takes has road works going on and the child may not know what to do.

“They need to be taught how to react in such circumstances as well.”

A former police officer from New Zealand, Hermans said most children know what to do to be safe but may not actually practise it. “That is where the education system and parents play an essential role,” he said.

“We need to try and get knowledge and attitude to change into behaviour.”

The specialist suggests more safety education in the curriculum. “Starting young is the best international practice.”

“When these children grow older and get behind the wheel, they will have a road safety attitude.”

The initiative also recognises children as agents of change. “Through the programme, we are also driving key messages of traffic safety home and influencing the entire family.”

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