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Voice of Scotland.

FOR children of all ages, learning how to stay safe on the roads is a vital part of their education. But it's not just a job for teachers and schools. Mairi Blair, from Road Safety Scotland, explains how all of us have a vital role to play in making sure that children and young people know how to keep themselves as safe as possible in the road environment.

ADULTS appreciate that road safety issues are important for young children, but we often find that, as children get older, they know a lot about road safety but don't put it into practice.

That's something which adults don't always understand.You can teach children about looking and listening, and about wearing bright clothing, but the teaching has to be backed up with actions.

So what's important is parents lead by example. Scotland's Road Safety Framework to 2020 includes tough targets on reducing the number of child casualties on our roads, and aims to bring together communities in recognising that road safety is everyone's responsibility.

In education there's a real focus on road safety and on making the topic more interactive so that young people can enjoy it and have fun, but parents and the community as a whole also play a vital role in reinforcing that message.

Adults sometimes forget this because of the pace at which we live our lives, so it's important that we all realise that our own actions are just as important in teaching young people as what they learn at school.

They need to be getting the same messages about road safety at home as they're getting at school too. That continues to be important as children get older, especially when they go to secondary school and become more independent.

It's a sudden change for young people and they need to be given the opportunity to become familiar with the roads they use, which could mean, for example, not using the car for every journey.

That will give them a chance to learn more about how they should be behaving in a road environment. They will develop better road-sense and will be able to put the messages they have learned into practice.

Peer influence can have an effect on the decisions young people make on the roads, and that can lead to them not applying the knowledge they have about staying safe. That's why much of the work on road safety which goes on in schools is much more practical and engaging, as it means young people can become more confident. So if young people do see their peers doing something which they think is unsafe, they won't feel pressured into following.

Adults can also have a positive effect by setting a good example as drivers. From a young age, children learn from the behaviour of the adults who are driving them - that includes everything from aggression to inappropriate speeding, tailgating to using a mobile phone.

Over time, those negative messages can have a cumulative effect on a young person's own attitudes and behaviour. For that reason, it's important that adults adopt the correct habits when driving, as that can have a reinforcing effect on children who are receiving the same messages at school.

If they can see that parents or big brothers and sisters are adopting positive attitudes and behaviours, they'll make the link between that and what they learn at school.

In this way, we can arm young people with simple, clear messages about road safety which they can then put into practice.

If you would like to get involved in any road safety projects, you can find out more information at
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 5, 2009
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