Youth Road Safety Education

Developing Guidelines for Road Safety Education

  • It is important that children receive road safety education as part of a school curriculum.
  • A formal road safety education in an educational environment outside of school is also an effective means of road safety training.
  • Road safety professionals and educators must plan and support road safety programs and train the educators.
  • Parental involvement is invaluable to model and reinforce road safety behavior.
  • Evaluative tools are necessary to measure effectiveness.

Key Design Elements

  • Education should be based on practical training in a realistic road environment such as training in crossing streets, crossing near parked cars and crossing at intersections.
  • Training should be regular, frequent and combined with practice.
  • Training must take into account the educational, cultural, transport and financial circumstances.
  • Programs should be multi-modal (didactic, interactive, simulation, real life).
  • Teaching methods should be consistent with developmental level of child.

Lessons Learned from Child Development Research

  • Training children to recognize and interpret visual and auditory road clues is critical. Children struck by vehicles often claim that they "looked" before crossing the road, but did not "see" the oncoming vehicle that hit them. As these skills develop, children become more aware of relevant cues and evaluate traffic situations more efficiently.
  • Younger children are not yet aware of the concept of danger and must learn to realize the dangers inherent in the road environment.
  • A clear improvement in the recognition of how to cope with the dangers of crossing the street occurs around the age of seven and eight. Children younger than this should be accompanied by an adult when crossing the street.
  • Practical experience is necessary to enable pedestrian skills to develop. A time lag may exist between experience and skills development.

Information Sources

  • "Child Development And The Aims Of Road Safety Education: A Review and Analysis", James A. Thomson, Andrew Tolmie, Hugh C. Foot, Brian McLaren, Road Safety Research Report No. 1,Dept. of Transport, UK 1996.
  • "Road Safety Principles And Models: Executive Summary and Policy Conclusions", OECD.
  • "Road Safety Education in Schools, GRSP Focus", Global Road Safety Partnership,

Parents and Caregivers

Parents and caregivers should be active participants in developing children's road safety skills. Parents and caregivers should have a clear understanding of children's developmental ability as pedestrians and passengers. Safety preparedness programs are more likely to be effective when parents are involved. Creating a parental role within road safety education is helpful to the student's internalization of the information and positive road safety behavior. Parental involvement may also influence parents to become better role models for road safety (e.g. wearing a seat belt, not speeding, refraining from reckless driving).

Ages 5 - 9

Young children do not have the necessary skills and experience to be safe in traffic on their own. Children need supervision when in the road environment. While cultural, economic and practical conditions may render it unfeasible, ideally, until nine years of age, children encountering road traffic should be supervised by an adult. Children must be taught safe traffic behavior and observe positive role models. Strategies:

  • Teach and model safe traffic behavior.
  • Ensure that your children are supervised by a responsible adult on the way to and from school and whenever they are near roads.
  • Discuss road signs and traffic signals with your children. Help your children identify safe places to cross streets.
  • Discuss the rules for crossing with signals.
  • Reinforce the STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and THINK procedure.
  • Set a good example by adopting safe pedestrian practices yourself.
  • The "Walking Bus" is a good way to model safe pedestrian practice for young children. Children and parents join with others walking to school to create a walking bus.

Ages 10 - 13

Children begin to cope with traffic independently, but need to be checked regularly. Ensure that they remember and follow safety procedures. Plan safe walking and cycling routes together. Strategies:

  • Encourage children to use controlled crossings and always STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and THINK.
  • Help children choose a safe route to school.
  • Be realistic - if the route they usually follow is the quickest, but not necessarily the safest, help them identify and minimize the hazards.
  • Set a good example by observing the rules yourself.
  • Make sure your children know that there are increased risks to pedestrians during bad weather and at night. Encourage them to wear colors that are easily seen by day and by night.

Available Programs and Resources:

Age Program Goals Source
0-80 lbs. “Four Steps for Safety”


Child Restraint Systems


0-18 yrs.


Child Passenger Safety Tips


Child safety and parent responsibilities


NHTSA  (go to “Passenger Safety”)


0-15 yrs.


Assorted Info


Road Safety , “Resource Catalog”


0-15 yrs.


Pedestrian, Passenger, Bicycle Info


Online Traffic Safety, “Traffic Safety Materials”


All Ages Diverse Pedestrian, Passenger, Bicycle Safety Traffic Safety Materials Catalog


Goals for Road Safety Education:

Road safety education involves teaching children to be safer road users by developing:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of road traffic
  2. Behavioral skills necessary to survive in traffic
  3. An understanding of their own responsibilities for keeping themselves safe
  4. Knowledge of the causes and consequences of road crashes
  5. A responsible attitude toward their own safety and the safety of others

Objectives for Road Safety Education:

To understand the skills and strategies necessary to be a safe pedestrian or passenger, the following skills must be developed:

  1. Detection of the presence of traffic
  2. Visual timing judgment
  3. Coordination of information from different directions
  4. Coordination of perception and action
  5. Cognitive ability to assess the traffic situation
  6. Methods of internalizing traffic negotiation

Ages 5-7

Children are typically given limited responsibility for their own safety. While they should be accompanied near busy roads, children may need to assume limited responsibility for their own safety. Children should:

  • Understand that crashes can lead to getting hurt
  • Understand how and why vehicles contribute to safety or danger
  • Be aware of the dangers of not being seen because of stationary vehicles or other obstructions
  • Identify safe play areas and learn how to play safely
  • Understand the importance of being visible in day and night and in all types of weather
  • Understand rules governing the behavior of pedestrians and traffic
  • Recognize and seek people who are present to help cross the road
  • Understand traffic lights (with or without marked pedestrian crossings)
  • Use visual and auditory clues to recognize the direction from which traffic is coming
  • Stop, look and listen before crossing a street
  • Choose the shortest distance to cross a street
  • Use marked pedestrian crossings when available
  • Proceed with great caution when using pedestrian crosswalks

Ages 8 - 12

Children are often expected to deal with traffic risk by themselves. They should:

  • Understand traffic lights, road signs, road markings and signals given by drivers and the police
  • Be aware of importance of planning safe school routes
  • Know when and how to summon help in an emergency
  • Recognize the need to be visible near and in traffic
  • Recognize the varying speeds at which different vehicles and people are moving
  • Be aware of the time involved for vehicles to brake to avoid collision
  • Understand the effects of adverse weather
  • Know that traffic rules are not always observed by other road users
  • Understand which road signs are warnings that must be obeyed and which provide information
  • Recognize that alcohol, drugs and fatigue contribute to road crashes
  • Appreciate the needs of special groups - the very young, the old and disabled
  • Set a good example for other children
  • Understand that stationary vehicles compromise visibility
  • Identify and recommend to smaller children safe places to play
  • Understand that domestic and wild animals on roads cause accidents

Ages 13 - 16

Over the age of 12, children in industrializing countries are more likely to be treated as 'mini' adults and should:

  • Be alert when using public transport alone
  • Ride a bicycle safely
  • Know the rules of the road and responsibility to fellow road users
  • Identify and understand causes of road crashes and how to reduce risks
  • Be able to judge speeds and distances
  • Know simple first aid

Methods and Programs

The research suggests a multi-modal approach to road safety education for each age group. Available methods and programs are listed below.

Age Program Goals Source
5-9 “Cat O’: Nine Lives in Deepest Trouble” Conditioning to common sense and road safety
5-12 RoadSmart* Foster safe and responsible traffic practices in children go to Education & Community, primary educationau
5-15 Assorted activities pedestrian, passenger, & bicycle safety  go to search: resource catalog
6-12 Safe Moves City Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety  
7-11 S'Cool To Be Safe Develop knowledge, & skills to manage risks of road travel
8-10 Riding By Develop knowledge, skills, & positive attitudes to keep safe on the roads
11-12 Out and About Safe participation as road users, aware of others in environment  
12-15 The Traffic Safety Box Develop responsible pre-drive and novice driver behaviors
13-14 Changing Gears Instill positive attitudes & values, respect for road rules
13-14 Motorvation2* Preparation for licenses and traveling safely *
14-18 Street Skills Help teenagers who don’t yet have license to become more responsible drivers
15-18 Safe Wheels Development of responsible attitudes and behavior when driving  
16 “Legal Weapon”, “The Buzz”, “Never Saw the Day” Attitudes toward passenger and driver responsibility

*Some road safety information is country-specific

Online Learning

Age Program Goals Source
7-9 The Otto Club Fosters safe and responsible traffic practices in children
9-11 Vince and Larry Fosters safe and responsible traffic practices in children  
7-11 Hedgehogs Fosters safe and responsible traffic practices in children