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Traffic Safety Education


Traffic safety education at the school level is meant to provide the students with lifetime skills for maneuvering in the public roads and highways. The importance of learning these skills at school level is increasing, since more and more students are nowadays driving to school. Those not driving are riding either bicycles or motorcycles. All of these kinds of students need to be provided with special education on their safety and the safety of other road users when they are on the road. Traditionally, this has been integrated into the school systems, and students have benefited from them. The last ten years have shown a marked reduction in overall traffic accidents and fatalities.

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But with the ongoing financial crisis, the rules are changing. What was previously treasured for its invaluable contribution to the safety of the general public is now being regarded only in terms of its budgetary requirements. And, in the backdrop of what is regarded as more crucial needs, traffic education in school has slowly begun to be discarded. There is simply no luxury budget to accommodate this course. This says something about the financial priorities within Washington. Perhaps the information divulged herein will serve to persuade all concerned bodies that continued support for the driving program is critical.

Observations show that more and more students are being enrolled into secondary schools having reached the legal driving age. There are several reasons for this. For one, more students are completing year 12 of learning. Secondly, there is an increase in the number of students who are commuting between school and work as part-time students. Then lastly, the number of students who live independently from their parents has increased considerably. These factors, combined, have resulted in a marked increase in the total number of students driving to school.

Besides the students already driving to school, there is a huge majority of other young people who, daily, have to grapple with the ever increasing traffic snarl ups. These young people need to be able to maneuver their way through the traffic of the cities, and any knowledge they may have about safety comes to play then. Withdrawing a course that teaches them how to survive in the highways then is like denying them a chance to exercise their rights on the roads. After all, if the young people don’t know their rights, they aren’t likely to defend them, even when they are clearly taken advantage of by other road users. For example, pedestrians have fundamental rights. Without knowledge of these rights, they can easily be mistreated on the roads without any legal recourse.

Young people and driving

Now young drivers show a conscious attempt at driving carefully. They have an inherent need to prove that they can handle themselves on the highways. They are also likely to be more observant about any changes within the environment out and within the car. But despite this, their relative inexperience and certain habits derived from their youthful culture make them some of the most vulnerable driver groups. In addition, they pose higher risks of crash accidents when they travel as groups in the cars. Overall, young drivers in their first year of driving are thrice as likely as experienced people to suffer from road accidents (TAC, 2004). In fact, the most significant cause of death amongst young people between 15-25 years is road accidents.

There are several reasons why young people are at high risk of road accidents. As already said, they are inexperienced. This particular factor is compounded by the fact that most of them tend to perceive themselves as more competent than they actually are. Hence, they tend to take more risks when driving. They, on average, tend to drive for long distances, disregarding road and environmental conditions, and even their own physical conditions like exhaustion. Most of them are also driven by sensation-seeking motivations. Young people carrying other passengers have in particular been observed to be more likely to get involved in accidents. All these factors make these young drivers potential hazards, as long as they are ignored by the education system.

According to statistics gathered during 2006 and 2007, young people have the highest fatalities resulting from road accidents. The 21-30 age group leads with a fatality rate of 21.5%. They are followed by the 15-20 year olds at 16.2% (Mischelle, 2008). The only other age group that even comes close to these fractions is that of people above 74 years old, and these have been explained away by the fact that they are more likely to die from an accident that a younger person would survive. These statistics only emphasize the critical need for formal education on driving by the young people. If ignored, the figures may increase to unprecedented levels, what with the ever faster but more fragile cars coming out of the production lines.

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Traffic education should not be considered to be any different from any of the other subjects taught in schools nowadays. If anything, due to its immediate and critical application on our highways, it probably should attain an even higher status than some other conventional subjects. And if it were to be thus integrated into the education structure, then the prevailing laws should see to its satisfactory funding. This is because article 9, section 1 of Washington State Constitution clearly shows the paramount responsibility that the state has towards providing ample provisions for the education of all children residing within that state (Margaret, N.D.). In other words, were traffic education mainstreamed into the curriculum, the state would be obliged to provide funding for it.

The details of the Washington State Constitution article clearly place upon the legislature the powers to define a public school, and any crucial courses within it. Additionally, the public schools thus identified are supposed to be funded through state, not local, funds. Thus, public schools benefited from a full funding by the government. While this was definitely well-intentioned, it also placed a huge load on the state funds. The load increased further when the state was made, through a court act, to fully support even the handicapped, bilingual and remedial students. Some public transport costs for the students in these schools were also included in these responsibilities (Margaret, N.D.). With such a load, the state resources have for a long time been tittering on the edge. The ongoing financial crisis was the last straw. Perhaps, with better foresight, better allocation of resources to the education system could have been implemented. Then critical part of the education like traffic studies would not have to be eliminated.

The graduated licensing system

With the credit crunch and the need to keep road accidents in check, new and revolutionary ideas are being hatched. Some states have instituted regulations that seek to reduce the number of accidents from young people. For example, Washington has a graduated licensing system whereby the young person gets awarded a learner’s license first, then an intermediate license, and finally the full license. Award of these sequential licenses is based on age and experience of the young driver. However, these regulations are at a significant disadvantage due to the fact that a driver’s age can only be ascertained if he or she is pulled over by the roadside for a close checkup. This is a time consuming exercise, and rarely implemented fully (Mathew, 2006). Thus, even while these regulations are in place, they don’t work as well as they ideally should. Their efficacy would be greatly increased if traffic education continued to be taught in schools.

Another reason why traffic safety education should continue within schools is that conditions keep changing out there in the highways. The laws governing drivers within specific states keep on being modified. Having a formal way by which the students can be alerted of these changes within the schools can mean the difference between life and death in some instances. For example, in 2007, Washington Traffic Safety Commission instituted a law restricting the speeds of cars moving near schools, in a bid to reduce fatality through road accidents. At the same time, they put up flashing yellow beacons as an effective way of reducing speeds by motorists (WTSC, 2007). This was done in light of the fact that children below 13 years usually have problems judging distance and speed of approaching cars. Without a formal way of being informed of such events, student drivers may be at a distinct disadvantage, and may continue to pose road hazards, unwittingly.

Special niches for school traffic education

An area rarely covered by conventional traffic rules is passenger safety. This refers to the safety of everyone within a car who is not presently driving. With the increasing means of motor transport, both private and public, young people are increasingly engaging in dangerous behaviors when being transported as passengers. A huge fraction of young people involved in accidents are found not to have worn safety belts, and even to have been engaging in risky activities within the car (Leonard, 1991). More often than not, these behaviors are influenced by peer pressure. A formal system by which these traits can be eradicated needs to be instituted and maintained, and this can best happen within a school system. There, even excursions can be organized for the students to be taught practically about these regulations and their importance (Peter, N.D.).

Significant fractions of the young people ride bicycles, either for recreation or as a way through traffic. However, some of these young cyclers don’t know the laws governing them as cyclists, and sometimes aren’t even competent on the bicycles. Their ignorance on any of these fronts can easily become fatal, unless they get exposed to a formal way of learning the vital information. Hence within the traffic education structure, there should be a provision for cyclists, who should initially train within the school compound before being allowed to venture into traffic. The experience gained during this period will prove useful even later when the students get to drive cars (Peter, N.D.)

Traffic education, when integrated within the school curriculum, can be made to have a pre-license phase. This phase is distinct from the conventional traffic education in the sense that the student is not taught how to drive or ride. Instead, the individual attitudes and decision-making abilities of the students are shaped to conform to the standards needed on the highways (Peter, N.D.). Hence, in a sense, this pre-license education is more theoretical than applied, but its importance in the overall well being of the student in traffic can not be denied.

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Studies all over the world show that the highest fraction (about 74%) of all road accidents is caused purely by human factors like negligence, drunkenness and so on. Environmental factors come a distant second at 14.5%, and vehicle factors are the least contributing of the three at (10.2%). The environmental factors include daylight, lack of adequate pedestrian space and rush hour traffic. Vehicle factors are mainly faulty brakes and tires (Vogel, 2004). Obviously if the human factors were to be reduced, the incidences of road accidents would significantly be reduced. And one way of reducing the road accidents is by enlightening the people, especially the young, through a formal education process.


All in all, the realities of the highway accidents simply don’t leave a sound reason for the withdrawal of traffic education from schools. If anything, it only makes the course even more vital to the young minds in the school system. Instead of doing away with it, strategies should be hatched to try and deal with the financial crisis. For example, partnerships with private traffic education companies may help ease the burden on the government. This may even actually improve the quality of the courses by making what is taught more relevant and updated. Whatever is done however, traffic safety education should remain a core course within the school systems.

Works cited

Vogel, L. and Bester, C.J. 2004 A relationship between accident types and causes. Web. 

Leonard Evans Traffic Safety and the Driver Science Serving Society 1991, pg 75.

Margaret Plecki N.D. Current issues in Washington State School Finance. 2009. Web. 

Mathew L. Wald 2006 Licensing restrictions save young driver’s lives The New York Times. Web.

Mischelle Weedman-Davis 2008 Seattle Washington Accident Law Blog. Web. 

Peter Allens N.D. Administrative guidelines for traffic safety education. 2009. Web. 

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WTSC (Washington Traffic Safety Commission) 2007 School Zone grants NR. Web. 

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