Board created to teach highway safety

By Sandi Patyk

A program has been started by Secretary of State Jim Edgar to review and develop highway safety education programs in elementary and high schools.

The Council on Youth Highway Safety is comprised of leaders from education, business and transportation organizations throughout the state, including NIU Technology Professor Earl Hansen. Hansen said the council concentrates on education programs from preschool through high school.

“We want to make people aware of the number of traffic-related accidents that affect youth. The council is really an advisory board made up of people who have a tremendous concern for children,” Hansen said.

Edgar said 324 people under the age of 20 were killed in Illinois traffic accidents last year, up from 285 killed in 1985. In DeKalb County, however, there was a decrease in traffic fatalities. Gene Milliron, of the Department of Transportation, said two people under age 20 were killed in 1985, and no one under age 20 was killed last year.

e said the council will meet monthly to “examine the validity of safety programs in schools. We want to try different approaches, such as the Pandy Bear program.”

The Pandy Bear is targeted to preschool children through third grade students, Hansen said. “We bring mock buildings, roads and crosswalks to classrooms, and the students practice crossing the street. Pandy Bear encourages them and applauds when they do it correctly. The program also sponsors bicycle rodeos, which test skills and traffic safety.”

Edgar said traffic fatalities in Illinois have declined since 1980. “We must now focus on youth safety, because safe children today will mean safe drivers tomorrow.”

ansen said he makes presentations at DeKalb schools on safety. He also shows a film he made while he was the director of traffic and safety education at the University of Hawaii. “I am trying to bring the Pandy Bear program to the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival this year. It’s a good place because of the large kid turnout.”

Adults also need to be educated about pedestrian and traffic safety, Hansen said. “Parents have to practice what they preach. They can’t tell their children to look both ways before they cross the street and then not do it themselves.”

Another problem Hansen wants to change is the attitudes of some adults. “Adults sometimes take safety for granted. They forget that we are talking about kids—you never know what they might do while riding bikes on the street.”