by James Sievert, Safe Routes Instructor
Here at Safe Routes to Schools, we hear the collective experience of families walking and biking throughout the County. From¬†crosswalks in Sausalito to bike routes in Novato, addressing the issues in your community is central to our effort. We hear the stories and share the successes and failures as our own.
Two recent incidents illustrate how responsible drivers make or break our safe streets.
Some weeks ago in Tam Valley, a driver reported avoiding a collision with a student biking on the wrong side of the street through an intersection. While we wish all road users behaved perfectly, kids are prone to mistakes. This potential collision was avoided by vigilant driving. Unfortunately a recent collision along Butterfield Road in San Anselmo shows the need for responsible drivers. Witnesses reported a distracted driver swerved into a student in the bike lane and fled. Thankfully the student suffered no major injuries and is back on his bike. We know that walking and biking is still healthier despite a risk of injury, but these stories show the need for cautious and attentive drivers.
In recent years we have included an equal emphasis on the driver’s responsibility in our curriculum.¬† For example, when we teach the rules of the road to young bikers we always cover basic mistakes such as wrong-way riding, but now we include issues such as speeding, which is a common violation for drivers. While we don’t expect any of our young students to be behind the wheel for years to come, future drivers will start with a better understanding of their responsibility.
For youth that are driving or nearly driving, our Teens Go Green program is partnering with Heads Up and Impact Teen Drivers (ITD), a national non-profit founded by the national Safety Council, California Teachers Association and CHP.¬†¬† The first Parent-Teen Safe Driving Workshop, Dec. 1st¬†6-7:30pm, Drake High School Community Room is free to teens 14+ and parents.¬† This workshop explains graduated driver licensing laws, and includes parents as critical role models.¬† Because evidence demonstrates that graphic and gory messaging does not change long-term attitudes and behaviors, ITD uses engaging tools, video, real life scenarios and interactive discussion to empower good decision making by drivers as well as passengers. * (for more information, see attached flyer)
Over the past five years, I have had the pleasure of providing the vast majority of traffic safety instruction for youth in Marin. Together we practice crossing the street, cover the basic rules of the road, and demonstrate the need for personal responsibility for collective safety on our streets. Knowing that there is no replacing the need for responsible drivers, I’m pleased that Safe Routes has these new initiatives to help address the problem.
*Heads Up, is a partnership of San Anselmo Public Library, Drake High School, Safe Routes to School, Central Marin Police, Ross Valley Healthy Communities Collaborative and Impact Teen Drivers, a national non-profit founded by the National Safety Council, California Teachers Association and CHP. The program highlights distracted driving as a rising safety epidemic in our communities, and one that is 100% preventable. Heads Up brings workshops and presentations to high schools, middle schools and community organizations. A highlight will be a community presentation this coming spring from author and New York Times reporter Matt Richtel, who received a Pulitzer Prize for his series on distracted driving, and wrote the acclaimed non-fiction book¬†A Deadly Wandering.