Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Potential for Partnership: Early Childhood Road Safety Education at Home and Preschool

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Potential for Partnership: Early Childhood Road Safety Education at Home and Preschool

Article excerpt

Introduction

Death and injury from traffic-related accidents remain a major health issue for young children and there is a continuing need for interventions aimed at injury prevention, whether through educational approaches or engineering improvements in road design. Much of the existing research on road safety education focuses on school-aged children (Antill, 1991), and many studies indicate that appropriate teaching and training is needed for the development of road safety skills (Thomson, 1995). Research with preschool-aged children, however, appears to be limited, although one recent study has explored different approaches to road safety education in preschool settings (Cullen, 1996).

Methods

An interpretive approach (Walsh, Tobin & Graue, 1993) was selected for this study, as the researchers wanted to reveal the multiple perspectives of participants (Glesne, 1999). The goal of interpretative research is to provide descriptions that `... realign our present understandings of the realities of contemporary children's lives' (Graue & Walsh, 1995, p. 135). The potential strength of this approach lies in its ability to include the voices of participants, thus enabling this research to relate to the experiences of early childhood practitioners.

In this study, parents at a preschool in suburban Sydney were invited to participate with their children. The preschool was in a middle-income area of predominantly anglo-Australian, two-parent families. Thirty parents of four-year-old children volunteered to take part.

Thirty-two four-year-olds (including two sets of twins) were interviewed individually at the preschool. The initial stage of the interview involved the use of five pairs of drawings illustrating safe and unsafe pedestrian activities in specific contexts: holding hands when walking along the road, waiting to cross the road, choosing a safe place to cross, using a pedestrian crossing, using the traffic lights correctly, crossing the road with a crossing supervisor. The drawings were provided by the researchers to promote discussion of the children's road safety knowledge. In the second stage of the interview, the children explained their regular practices as pedestrians, passengers, and bike riders and identified the sources of their road safety knowledge.

Thirty mothers were also interviewed to identify their attitudes and practices towards their child's road safety. The interview schedule included questions about responsibility for road safety within the family and the use of road safety resources. Considerable discussion focused on the individual approaches used by the parents to encourage pedestrian and passenger safety.

In addition, the director of the preschool was interviewed about her own attitudes towards road safety education and the practices she encouraged at the centre. To ensure consistency, the questions were presented in the same manner to each participant in each category. The interviews were audio-taped and the data transcribed and collated.

Findings

The data collected from children, mothers and the preschool director are presented in two sections. Initially, a description of the children's knowledge of pedestrian, passenger, and bike safety issues is presented, together with what parents and the director said they had taught children about these issues. The second section contains a report of the factors that seem to influence the practices and attitudes of parents and teachers.

Pedestrian safety

Even at four or five years of age, these children demonstrated a substantial knowledge of pedestrian road safety issues. A common strategy reported by the children to keep safe when out walking was to stay with mummy, and a less frequent response was to walk on the path or keep off the road. While 20 children when discussing the road safety pictures identified hand-holding as a safe behaviour, only nine children when describing their own road safety behaviour mentioned hand-holding as a means of keeping safe. …

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