Child Development and the Aims of Road Safety Education

This report examines the skills and abilities needed by proficient pedestrians, the extent to which road safety education aids the growth of these skills in children, and what developmental psychology has to say about the form that effective education should take. The authors argue that confusion between teaching children about the traffic environment and teaching them how to behave within it has led to an emphasis on classroom activities and learning of abstract rules. Neither appear successful when compared to programmes that give children practical training and experience. Developmental psychology indicates this is because learning proceeds most naturally from specific behaviours in specific contexts towards the gradual elaboration of more general understanding. It follows that road safety education should begin by teaching appropriate behaviour within realistic contexts, with more explicit knowledge building up gradually from this experience. Interactive learning techniques, in particular adult-led guidance of behaviour at the roadside combined with peer discussion of the rationale for that behaviour, present the best methods of intervention because they capitalise on the natural process of learning. There is no reason why training of this kind should not begin at the start of primary school.

Authoring Organization: 
Department for Transport, London

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