All posts by Tracy Anderson

Two little girls wearing backpacks hold hands with an adult.

4 Things You Can Do to Raise Traffic-Safe Kids

Tragically, traffic crashes are the #1 leading cause of death for North Carolina kids ages 5 – 14 (Source: NC Department of Health and Human Services).

 

Keep your kids safe with these 4 simple tips.

 

1 – Show Them What Safety Looks Like

In the middle of your third Zoom meeting of the day, you look over to see your four year old daughter pounding away on a plastic keyboard, balancing her toy cell phone on her shoulder and talking like a boss baby. Her air of authority makes you laugh and pulls your attention away from your call. Your mini-me is at it again.

 

Watching our kids imitate us can be a warm and gratifying experience. It also serves as an important reminder of the observant eyes that soak up our behavior like a little sponge. On the road, it’s especially important to give them a good example to follow.

 

Children start learning how to drive as soon as you turn their car seat facing forward.

 

 

The way you drive now is how your kids will drive when they get a license.

 

By modeling the habits that will keep them safe on the road, you help to shape safe behaviors long before they get their license.

 

2 – Explain What You’re Doing and Why

Add another level to your child’s understanding of traffic by thinking aloud as you drive, bike, walk, or ride. The extra context clues will help them to start recognizing cues and threats like an experienced traveler.

 

Explain your decisions using “I” statements during trips with your child. For example:

 

  • Oh look, the cars way up there are braking. I will slow down too.”
  • “Since it’s raining, it may be hard for people to see this car. I’m going to put on my headlights so they can see us.”
  • “I’m not sure if that driver can see me yet, I’m going to wait to cross until we make eye contact.”
  • “There’s a pedestrian at that crosswalk! I’m going to stop and wave at her so she can cross safely.”
  • “That big truck may not be able to see my car, so I’m going to give it plenty of space.”

 

3 – Practice Safety Together

The next important step to prepare your child is to practice together. As you’re traveling, ask your child open-ended questions to test his awareness and understanding of threats and situations. Play out circumstances he might encounter and ask him what he would do.

 

Try it out:

  • Take a walk through your neighborhood to practice crossing the street safely and looking and listening for cars. If you feel comfortable, take a walk in a busier location to give them experience with higher levels of traffic.

     

 

For more information about how to teach kids how to walk and bike safely, visit Let’s Go NC.

 

  • Give your kids hypothetical situations to practice speaking up as passengers. For example, pretend that you’re another parent from school and you start using a phone while driving. What should your child do in that situation? How will they tell you about it later?

     

  • As you’re driving, play the SPOTS game. SPOTS = See People On The Street. To play, everyone should tap their head and count aloud when they see people walking or biking. This simple game helps children practice looking for people when they (eventually) drive.

     

Free Resource: How to Talk to Your Kids About Traffic

 

4 – Make a Family Commitment

 

Having regular family conversations about safety will help your child internalize these habits. Discuss traffic safety rules with your family and commit to them together using this free Traffic Safety Family Contract.
Give your children permission to remind you of that commitment if they catch you doing something unsafe. By keeping each other accountable, your child will also learn how to speak up and advocate for his own safety in other situations.

 

A little boy smiling, wearing a bicycle helmet, riding a bicycle

Walking, Biking to School Keeps Kids Happy, Healthy, and Focused

Walking or biking to school is a fun way to get outside, explore your community, and make friends.

Walking or biking to school also keeps kids Happy, Healthy, and Focused.

Happy

It is well known that activities like walking and biking are good for physical health. Did you know that walking and biking is also good for your child’s mental health?

Physical exercise reduces the risk of depression in kids ages 6 – 13 (Source: CDC).

A 2021 study found that “children and adolescents who are more physically active showed better general mental health and fewer mental health problems” (Source: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health).

Another 2020 study found that physical activity promotes happiness (Source: International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity).

Healthy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get at least one hour of physical activity every day. Walking or biking one mile to school is a great way for kids to get the recommended activity.

Physical activity, like walking or biking to school, improves bone health, cardiorespiratory, and muscular fitness in kids (Source: CDC).

Kids who walk to school are more active the rest of the day (Source: BMJ) and are more likely to become active adults (Source: National Library of Medicine).

Focused

Short bouts of moderately-intense exercise like walking can improve cognitive control and attention in children (Source: Neuroscience).

One study found that children who walk or cycle to school, rather than being driven by their parents, have better concentration (Source: Nordic Science).

These benefits seem to continue through life. Physical activity in childhood can lead to higher cognitive function later in life. In one study, participants who exercised when they were children did better on cognitive tests regardless of their current age (Source: Science News).

Speak up if someone is driving dangerously. Be a PEACH!

 

You caught a ride with your best friend after school, but she pulls out her phone halfway down the road. You are shocked that she is being so irresponsible, but you usually avoid conflict. What do you do?

Your rideshare driver is weaving through traffic, tailing other cars, and speeding. You don’t know him but you don’t feel safe. What do you do?

Your cousin picks you up from work, but you notice he’s not wearing a seat belt. You don’t want to seem ungrateful for the ride, but you want him to buckle up. What do you do?


When you’re riding in a vehicle, your life is in the driver’s hands.

In 2021, 273 passengers were killed on North Carolina roads (Source: NCDOT Crash Facts).

So, what do you do if you’re riding with someone and the driver is doing something dangerous? What can you say if you don’t feel safe? It can be difficult, and sometimes awkward, to confront other people about their driving, but it can potentially prevent a crash and/or save lives.

You have the right and the responsibility to speak up if someone is driving dangerously. This makes you an empowered passenger! Just remember to be a PEACH.

The PEACH acronym can help you remember things to say if a driver is being unsafe.

One easy way to encourage a driver to change their behavior is to remind them of the threat of a traffic ticket. For example:

I’ve seen a lot of cops out today, you might want to slow down.

My cousin got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt last week – I think they’re cracking down on that around here.

Sharing a story or a personal experience may also help to persuade a driver to be safe.

For example:

My friend got hit by someone driving distracted last week. It really freaked me out.

I read a story this morning about a family killed by a speeding driver. It was heartbreaking.

If you can think of joke, humor can also be used to call attention to something that isn’t safe.

 

 

Sometimes being direct is the best option. If you feel safe to confront the driver directly, tell them what is making you nervous and ask them to stop.

For example:

Hey, you’re driving really close to that other car’s bumper. It’s making me nervous. Can you please ease up?

Please don’t use your phone while you’re driving – I don’t feel safe.

In some cases, it may be easier to offer to help rather than confronting someone directly.

For example:

Here, let me type that for you so you can keep your eyes on the road.

Want me to call them and tell them we’re late so you don’t have to speed?

Lastly, if you have tried speaking to a driver and they continue to make dangerous choices, your safest option is to get out of the car (in a safe location) or refuse to ride with them again in the future.

Ticket Your Family Program

About the Activity

  • Encourage dialogue between children and their guardians about traffic safety.
  • Children learn about safe vs unsafe behaviors on the road and in a car and are taught how to speak up if someone is unsafe.
  • Children are given ticketbooks and encouraged to write “tickets” for family members who are being unsafe.

All program materials are free to download and use!

 

Who is this for?

The materials are written for elementary school age children. Any adult who wants to help children learn about traffic safety may use this activity.

 

Why is this important?

Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for North Carolina kids. Over the past five years, 630 children were killed on North Carolina roads. To help keep them safe it’s important to teach children how to recognize safe vs unsafe behaviors and how to speak up if someone is unsafe.

 

Activity Materials

 

      • This image can be shared with school faculty, parents and guardians, PTA members, etc. to promote the program.
      • This simple lesson plan provides tips and additional resources for the program.
      • This class presentation introduces the program and explains basic concepts necessary for students to participate.
      • PowerPoint Presentation Notes
      • Distribute this information sheet to parents and guardians to explain the program and help them prepare to participate.
  • Tickets

Relax, you’re on beach time now

 

As you cross the bridge, you open your car windows, letting in the fresh sea air. The vast blue water stretches out as far as you can see. Your preoccupied thoughts of work, carpools, chores, and checklists begin to dissipate into the landscape around you. As each wave crashes to shore, you feel tension and stress receding from your shoulders. This is the magic of the Outer Banks – a gentle power which seems to slow down the pace of the world around you. A power which makes you feel fully present and alive in this moment.

 

The Outer Banks, recently featured in the Netflix TV show, is having “a moment” as one might say. Even before Gen-Z made this riveting discovery, the Outer Banks has always been a popular vacation destination. It’s not hard to understand why. The secluded beaches, protected landscape, and rich history make it the perfect destination for families wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Coming to the Outer Banks is like entering a different world. Its magic has inspired many to return year after year to receive their annual dose of oceanfront detox. When you enter into this world-famous “happy place,” you may not have the recognizable OBX license plate, but we recommend the following steps to blend in with the locals and maximize your visit.

 

  1. Be fully present. Put down your phone and take in the ocean breeze. Filled with emails, notifications, and deadlines, our phones have the ability to take us out of the moment and pull us back into our 9-to-5 lives. When you are in the Outer Banks, focus on being present and let those expectations fade away. You are on beach time. This is especially important while driving in the Outer Banks. The streets around the coast are full of people – people on beach cruiser bicycles, people pulling coolers and lugging surf boards, people crossing with little kids and beach umbrellas. Keep your eyes on the road to be fully present and to protect your fellow beach folks.

 

 

2. Enjoy your surroundings. When you enter into the Outer Banks there are a few things that never change. There will always be a parade of families with a slew of kids running ahead, people pulling wagons with boogie boards and colorful tents in tow, and visitors of every age biking to the beach. These walkers and bikers make up the quintessential Outer Banks that we picture in our heads when longing for an escape. Keep them safe by paying attention to your surroundings – especially while driving. Remember to look for people crossing the road and be proactive in predicting people’s movements. Enter into this Outer Banks state of mind and you can save lives.

 

 

3. Slow down and take a breath. Our lives move so fast. Treat yourself when visiting the Outer Banks by allowing yourself to slow down. Savor your book in the sand. Wander aimlessly along the beach. And take it easy as you drive around. Lowering your speed on the road reduces the number of collisions and reduces the severity of crashes as well. Slowing down is not only the vacation you deserve, but it saves lives.

 

 

We hope you enjoy your stay in the Outer Banks. In a world where everything moves so fast, take the opportunity to be fully present, enjoy your surroundings, take it easy, and slow down when visiting the Outer Banks.

Walk the World Program

Children crossing a road

Your students are full of energy and tired of being cooped up inside. How can we encourage them to use that energy at school while still learning?

The Walk the World program is a ready-to-go activity for elementary or middle school classes.

About the program

The goal of the Walk the World program is to encourage physical activity and cultural learning. This “walking at school” activity will provide your students with a chance to learn about other countries while establishing a healthy walking habit.

By walking a small distance regularly at school, students collectively travel a virtual journey between famous destinations. For example, if a class of 30 students walks 1 mile a week, they can travel the distance from London to Paris in one semester.

The program includes a journey map, a lesson plan, a class presentation, and a certificate template. All program materials are free to download and use!

Who is this for?

Any instructor who wants to introduce physical activity into their lesson plans.

Why is this important?

Physical activity, like walking at school, can help your students stay focused for the rest of the day.

Walking is also great for your students mental and physical health.

How do I start?

Choose one of the two journeys below – either London to Paris or Osaka to Tokyo. Click on the lesson plans, maps, and presentations below to download the materials.

Program Materials

 

Journey: London to Paris

Journey: Osaka to Tokyo

World Day of Remembrance

 

 

Every year, the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims calls attention to the suffering and heartache felt by millions as a result of preventable traffic violence. Hundreds of events honoring the lives lost are hosted all over the world.
The World Day of Remembrance is the third Sunday of November.
Every year, NC Vision Zero and the NC Families for Safe Streets hosts a shoe memorial to honor the lives lost on North Carolina roads.

world day of remembrance

Visitors to the exhibit can place a yellow paper flower on a pair of shoes to remember someone that they lost to a crash.

See more images from past events in our gallery.
What will happen with the shoes after the World Day of Remembrance exhibit?
The shoes will be used for many years, travel all over North Carolina, and appear at various traffic safety events. For example, we will use a portion of them for our upcoming Visionaries teen driver program–to represent the number of teen driver fatalities.
If there is ever a day when we decide to stop using the shoes, we will donate the shoes that are still wearable.
For more information, contact TrafficSafety@ncsu.edu.

 

 

“Sketch Your Way to School” Art Contest

How does your child get to school?

If they had a magic wand, what do you think they would change about their trip to school?

Give your kid some paper and art supplies and help us find out!

TJCOG’s Safe Routes to School Program is hosting an art contest for K-8 students in the Triangle Region. The theme for the art contest is “Sketch Your Way to School.”

Contest Rules

  • K-8 students who live in Wake, Durham, Chatham, Orange, Johnston, Moore, and Lee Counties may participate
  • Please include the student’s first name, school, and grade level on the back of the artwork
  • Submit a scan or picture of the artwork to reldridge@tjcog.org by April 1, 2022

All submissions will be reviewed by a group of judges.

The students with the most unique, creative, and talented drawings will win prizes! Winners will be announced on Earth Day (April 22, 2022).

Submit your child’s artwork at: go.ncsu.edu/artcontest

Download art contest materials:

English Flyer

Spanish Flyer

English Social Media Graphic

Spanish Social Media Graphic

Free Scavenger Hunt Adventure at Safe Routes to School Day

October 9, 2021

10 am – 2 pm

Dowdy Park

(3005 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959)

Register here (free).

The Scavenger Hunt features riddles and clues for kids to explore Dowdy Park and practice crossing the road safely with a grown-up.

If you complete the entire hunt, you will end up walking approximately ¾ mile in total.

Please bring a mask and be prepared to stay 6 ft apart.

What to bring

  1. Mask
  2. Comfortable walking shoes
  3. Sunscreen and/or hat
  4. Water
  5. (optional) Book donations for the Little Free Library

Details

  • Park at Dowdy Park (3005 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959)
  • To start the scavenger hunt, stop by the table near the parking lot. You’ll receive a scavenger hunt worksheet, a pencil, and instructions.
  • Once you have completed the scavenger hunt, stop by the table again for prizes!

More about Safe Routes to School Day

The focus of the day will be on our “Show, Explain, Practice” campaign, which encourages grown-ups to have meaningful conversations with kids about how to be safe around traffic.

For more about this program, read Kids Learn Learn How to Act on the Road by Watching You.

This free event is hosted by the Traffic Safety Marketing and Programs group at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education in partnership with the Albemarle Rural Planning Organization. The Safe Routes to School grant is provided by the NC Department of Transportation.

Help us spread the word about this event! Download and distribute the Safe Routes to School Day flyer.

Walk in Your Community Day / Walk to School Day

“Mama look! A butterfly!” She giggles and points as a bright yellow butterfly dances past. It stops to sip nectar from a small flower near the sidewalk. You hadn’t noticed that flower before. You smile and pat her backpack as you continue down the sidewalk. The cars passing can’t possibly notice that flower – or the Cardinal that cheeps at the two of you from a branch above.

The air feels cool this time of the morning. You breathe in deeply and feel a shift in the weight on your shoulders. A gentle easing. You needed that.

As you approach the next intersection, she turns to you smiling. “Almost there!” She presses the crosswalk button while looking up at the sky. “That one looks like a shark Mama,” she says as she points above.

“Ah, I see it! Shark!” you say as you wait for the light. “Ok, what do we do now?” you ask as traffic begins to slow.

She grabs your hand and starts looking back and forth down the road. “Hold hands. Look both ways. Listen!”

As you make your way across together, you think to yourself that school drop-off has never been so sweet.


For many North Carolina families, school looks very different this fall. Whether your child is meeting in a classroom or settling into lessons from home, we invite you to join us for Walk in Your Community/Walk to School Day on October 7, 2020.

Each year, thousands of North Carolina kids participate in International Walk to School Day. From the famous Walking School Bus to large parades and everything in between, communities across the state find ways to celebrate walking to school.

Photo by NCDOT

Walking one mile to and from school each day is two-thirds of the recommended sixty minutes of physical activity a day.

National Center for Safe Routes to School

How to Participate

Walk to School

  1. If your child is attending school in person, make a plan to walk there on October 7. Registered school events in North Carolina are listed on the Walk Bike to School site, but you do not have to walk with an officially registered event to participate. If your child’s school is not holding an official event, consider inviting a few of your child’s friends or other neighbors in your area.
  2. If you live far away, pick a parking spot within a mile of the school and do the last leg of the trip on foot. By practicing the route to school with your child, you teach her/him safety and health skills that they will carry for life.
  3. To plan a Walk to School Day event at your school, visit the National Walk Bike to School site at http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/plan/how-to-plan/.

In 1969 about 48% of students ages 5-14 walked or biked to school but as of 2009 this number has dropped to just 13%.

National Center for Safe Routes to School

Walk in your Community

This year, for North Carolina kids who aren’t attending in-person school or are unable to walk to school, we have adapted Walk to School Day to include Walk in Your Community Day. To participate, kids and their grown-ups can go on a walk at any place of their choice. Share pictures of your walk online and join the conversation with #walkinyourcommunity.

Physical activity can positively impact academic achievement, student morning energy levels and attention, truancy and absenteeism, and can improve schools and their communities through social bonding and community building.

North Carolina Safe Routes to School

 

Kids Learn How to Act on the Road By Watching You

Your child looks up to you and absorbs your behavior. That is why it is said that children start learning how to drive from the moment you turn their carseat facing forward! The good news is that you can help ensure your child is a safe driver years before they get a driver’s license. By modelling the habits that will keep them safe on the road, you teach them without making it a formal lesson.

 

Even very young children notice your behaviors when you travel. Help them to absorb safety habits by showing them the right things to do around traffic.

 

Explain your Thinking Process

As you are traveling, explain your decisions by using I statements. For example:

 

Oh look, the cars way up there are braking. I will slow down too.”

“Since it’s raining, it may be hard for people to see this car. I’m going to put on my headlights so they can see us.”

“There’s a pedestrian at that crosswalk! I’m going to stop and wave at her so she can cross safely.”

“That big truck may not be able to see my car, so I’m going to give it plenty of space.”

 

Imagine your Child with a Driver’s License

Even if your child will not start driving for another decade, he is already learning how to drive by watching you. If he spent years watching you text and drive, what do you think he will do once he gets his license? If the driving example in your family includes speeding, do you think he will follow the speed limit?

 

 

 

Make a Family Commitment

 

Discuss safety rules with your family and commit to them together. Give your children permission to remind you of that commitment if they catch you doing something unsafe. By keeping each other accountable, your child will also learn how to speak up and advocate for her safety in other situations.

 

 

For more information on the Safe Routes to School project, visit: ncvisionzero.org/safe-routes-to-school/

For lesson plans, materials, and activities for walking and biking safety, visit: ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/safety/lets-go-nc/Pages/default.aspx

Secure Your Load

Secure your load logo
 

A motorist in Charlotte stopped on the highway to avoid hitting carpet padding that had fallen from another vehicle. The stopped car was struck from behind, causing the vehicle to hit the concrete barrier and catch on fire. Four passengers were injured and the driver was killed.

In Nash County, a motorist swerved to avoid a wooden pallet in the roadway, ran off the road, and overcorrected. The vehicle overturned several times and the crash killed the driver.

 

Click here for a brochure of NCDOT’s recommendations.

 

On the road, any debris or flying objects can pose a danger to motorists. Between 2012 and 2016, there have been 2,595 crashes from unsecured loads – resulting in 705 injuries and 14 fatalities in our state. To raise awareness about this issue and prevent crashes resulting from loose items, Governor Roy Cooper has declared June 6 “Secure Your Load Day” for North Carolina. This is an effort to make sure all vehicles are properly loaded and our roads are clean of dangerous debris.

Data for unsecured load crashes
 

Secure Your Load

  1. Make sure everything in your vehicle is tied down. Use straps, twine, bungee cords, netting or rope. Be sure to tie larger items directly to your vehicle.
  2. Keep your items covered with tarps, nets or covers to keep smaller items from flying out.
  3. Don’t overload your vehicle. Your vehicle’s load shouldn’t go above the level of your truck or trailer and all items should be covered to keep them stable.

 

North Carolina law requires that all materials being transported in a motor vehicle are securely tied down. Failure to properly secure items can result in a $2,000 fine and a point on your driver’s license.

If you are carrying loose items, take the time to properly secure your load.

 

Mattress falls off truck, secure your load