California Association for Safety Education

Traffic Safety Education: Part of Health and Safety Education

By Jerry Gaines, CASE Past President

Published in the January 1998 CASE Newsletter

      As attention is given to strengthening academic standards in our state's public schools, there is also a growing concern for improved standards in health and safety education. One area that needs immediate attention is associated with the number one health and safety issue among young people—death and injury associated with the highway transportation system. More of our young people are impacted by highway related crashes than by any other area of health and safety education.

     Recently California became the first state in the nation to adopt a tough comprehensive graduated license law for new teenage drivers. This law, which now includes more restrictions on how and when novice drivers can drive a vehicle until gaining driving experience, is a first step in a nationwide effort to address the number one public health issue where young people are being killed or injured in traffic related crashes. In adopting this law it was noted that the “Youth quake” will lead to almost twice as many young people entering the highway transportation system as first time drivers by the year 2010. This is an issue for educating students Pre-K to 12th Grade!

     The next step is to improve formal traffic safety education, which is from Pre-K to 12th grade in our public schools. A review of the “Health Framework for California Public Schools,” which was adopted in 1992, shows an absence of curriculum related to traffic safety education. There has been no formal state level curriculum work in traffic safety education for years. The last CDE guide was published in 1973. For some traffic safety education and/or driver education has been viewed as a pre-licensing function rather than as part of overall health and safety education for our young people. This does not make sense when the number one health and safety issue nationwide is injury and death associated with traffic collisions within our nation’s highway transportation system.

     The California Association for Safety Education (representing educators who work with traffic safety education) respectfully request that the California Department of Education begin a review of the state’s current health education framework, and to work toward integrating traffic safety education curriculum into the overall health education framework. This request should go along with state Superintendent of Instruction Delaine Eastin's “total safety” goal announced earlier. There are natural areas for expansion such as “Injury Prevention”, p. 42, “Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs”, p. 43, and “Environmental Health”, p. 48. However, solid curricula is needed as noted recently in a report from the American Automobile Association.

     What makes our request to the California Department of Education so urgent is that many schools are choosing to ignore traffic safety education, particularly subjects like driver education, even though the California Education Code (EC 51220, EC51220.1, EC51851) requires such instruction be a part of our public schools. Some districts view such subject matter as a licensing function rather than a health and safety issue.There is no state level leadership to address this concern. To work toward comprehensive health and safety curricula that includes Pre-K to 12 traffic safety curricula, the department needs to include staffing and funding within its health and safety education unit.

     Hopefully the department can respond to our concerns as soon as possible. There is a critical need to address the number one public health issue for our youth -- traffic crash injuries and early deaths!


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