Daimler Is Making Traffic Education Fun

Daimler launched it in 2001, and today it’s active all over the world: The MobileKids traffic safety initiative teaches children how to negotiate traffic safely.
Nov 21, 2016 12:50 PM ET

Cool! I like the way you did that!” Max is visibly impressed as he hands a small card to the bewildered young man standing at the curb. He has just held back two teenagers who were about to dash across the pedestrian crossing without looking right or left — a cyclist was barely able to brake in time. The young man is initially surprised to hear this praise from the mouth of an eight-year-old, but he suddenly realizes something. “You’re from the school that’s doing a traffic safety training course, right?” he asks. “Yes, we are,” says Max’s classmate Lea, who has been watching. “We’re traffic inspectors. We’re watching to see how people behave out on the street. And every person who does something really good gets one of these thumbs-up cards.” “That’s great,” says the young man, beaming — and Max and Lea are sure that they too have just done something really good. At the start of their first training session, the young traffic inspectors had fanned out to do their tours of inspection. The 18 boys and girls from the third grade at the local primary school were armed with pencils and notebooks for writing down their observations. During the previous days they had participated in the MobileKids program at their school and learned how to negotiate traffic safely. The playful sessions were entertaining and imaginative. At the end of the sessions, all the children passed a test and proudly received their diplomas as MobileKids traffic inspectors.

Promoting traffic safety for 15 years

Every year, thousands of children like Max, Lea, and their classmates participate in the MobileKids program to learn how to avoid dangers and move through traffic safely. MobileKids is the biggest traffic safety initiative for children attending primary school. Since it was launched in 2001, it has reached more than 2 million children between the ages of six and ten — not only in Germany but all over the world. Today MobileKids is implementing its multifaceted program, which addresses teachers, schoolchildren, and parents, in 11 countries. The content of the traffic safety program is based on a uniform worldwide concept that includes not only the children but also the grown-ups with whom they interact. For example, parents are assisted in their efforts to prepare their children to negotiate traffic safely. The initiative cooperates with local partners all over the world. Together with these partners, it adapts the program activities to the specific needs of each location. For example, the teaching materials are adapted to the needs of bilingual schools in Brazil so that they can supplement the teachers’ curricula and their lesson plans. In Romania, on the other hand, the MobileKids program consists of informative events and interactive school lessons, at the end of which the children can receive their diplomas as traffic inspectors. In Russia, the focus is on nationwide roadshows and workshops. This sustainable approach was a major reason why the initiative could look back on many successes on its 15th anniversary in September 2016. However, the MobileKids team members don’t regard this milestone as a reason to slacken their efforts. It’s true that we no longer live in a time when traffic-calmed play streets were a rarity and children rode their bikes without helmets on and went on car trips without sitting in a car seat. And it’s also true that in spite of the increase in traffic density, for almost 40 years now the number of children who are injured in traffic accidents has been steadily declining, thanks to technical innovations, improved infrastructure, and growing public awareness of traffic safety. Nonetheless, children are still being injured on streets and roads in Germany, not to mention the situation in other parts of the world. In many countries there’s still a lot of catching up to do in the area of traffic safety. 

Guiding Children's First Steps as Road Users

Primary-school children require particular protection. They might be taking a bus to school or riding their bikes to sport practice or a friend’s house after school. For children, these are the first steps on the way to becoming independent road users. Because their cognitive faculties are not yet fully developed, they may not initially be able to perceive and evaluate the dangers that may face them on the street. That makes it all the more important to direct their attention to possible risks in age-appropriate ways and help them practice cautious behavior.

Integrating the basic principles of traffic safety and accident avoidance into daily life — that’s the aim of MobileKids South Korea. This initiative is mainly aimed at disadvantaged children who live in socially deprived areas. Experienced trainers, supported by student assistants, offer the children traffic education and help them practice safe behavior on the street.

The initiative sensitizes parents and educational institutions to the requirements of risk prevention and gives them — and the children themselves — comprehensive information and teaching materials. The MobileKids school campaign plays a central role in these activities. Educational institutions can benefit from the pedagogically valuable learning concepts that MobileKids has developed with support from experts. The aim of these concepts is to make traffic safety and accident prevention everyday topics of conversation in family life. In this way, adults and children can work together to increase safety and move confidently when they’re out on the streets. The initiative provides comprehensive materials free of charge to teachers who want to participate in the Mobile-Kids school campaign with their classes and enter the school competition that is related to the campaign. The written materials are designed in a way that allows them to be integrated into regular learning units on traffic safety. In addition to a teachers’ manual, there are four modules dealing with specific situations and requirements: “Seeing and Being Seen,” “Crossing the Street,” “Riding Your Bike in the Street,” and a new module, “Staying Safe on the Way to School.” The fifth module, “Being a Road User,” is all about being cautious and considerate out on the road — a habit that is not easy for children to develop, on account of their intense urge to move around and their frequently impulsive behavior. Finally, the sixth module deals with general themes and takes a look at the future of mobility. In Germany’s nationwide MobileKids school competition, the children can once again receive recognition for the knowledge they’ve gained — and in the best of cases, an entire class can win an award. The classes with the best prospects for winning will be those that come up with a creative project and carry it out with lots of commitment. The one requirement for all submissions is that the idea must help to increase traffic safety over the long term. For example, it might focus on what a safe bicycle should look like or on how to find out the safest route to school. The most impressive project ideas will receive rewards and will be presented on the MobileKids website. The awards include bike helmets and a school bus safety training session for the entire winning class. 

A Stong Online Community

It goes without saying that MobileKids is also accessible on the Internet. On the MobileKids website, boys and girls can find a realm that is devoted to them, with games that enable them to test and expand their knowledge of traffic safety. For the grown-ups, there’s an online magazine that provides updated and entertaining information about topics related to traffic safety. The spectrum of articles ranges from tips on traffic education to information about scientific trends and technical innovations and features about the future of mobility. The magazine also offers downloads and a regularly published newsletter. For children, there’s also a very practical MobileKids Safety Map. It’s an online planner that a child can use to plan his or her individual route to school. Since 2011, adults and children from the MobileKids community have been busily entering traffic points into the Safety Map and tagging them as being especially safe or especially dangerous. With the help of this information, parents and children can work together to map out the safest possible route for the child to take to school. And with the MobileKids app kids can use the Safety Map easily on their smartphones. MobileKids also addresses children and parents during various leisure activities in order to keep them aware of traffic education topics. For example, the initiative participates in folk festivals and street parties and cooperates with family parks and amusement parks. The young traffic inspectors Max and Lea have heard about these activities too. At school, a classmate told them about the Spieleland amusement park on Lake Constance, which features a MobileKids traffic safety school — with “real Mercedes cars.” Max now has a dream: getting his “children’s driver’s license” there. After all, he says, “A traffic inspector without a driver’s license — that’s just not right.” His family has already included a stop at Lake Constance in their plans for their next vacation trip.

All over the world, our mascot Moki represents traffic safety with games and fun. You can find out more about the international activities of MobileKids at www.mobilekids.net

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