First observe, then act! We found that situations of risky behaviour in traffic near our school are not so rare. By presenting our results to other pupils ‒ with the help of a miniature model, diagrams and a movie ‒ we wanted to create more safety.
The team that worked on our road safety project consisted of two teachers, one volunteer and the 7th graders of the German School in Belgrade. We organized two project days to collect ideas and plan our initiatives.
By presenting data about accidents and numbers of dead or injured people in traffic, we introduced the topic. The group discussed different factors that can lead to accidents and those that have the opposite effect (i.e. that secure road safety). During a brainstorming phase we pointed out the following factors that we thought were important because they are related to road safety in our community:
- conditions of the roads (e.g. debris in the roadway) and conditions of the traffic signs
- rules of the road: cyclist should wear helmets; drivers should keep to the speed limit; pedestrians should use the crosswalk and cars should be driven there carefully in order to be able stop them in time; motorbike drivers should use protective clothing
- negative behaviours: using the phone while driving/crossing the street/ riding a bike; drunk driving; listening to loud music, so that you are not able to hear warning sounds (shouts/ horns).
In groups of 3-4 pupils, we organized a survey of the traffic situation near our school.
One group interviewed pedestrians about their opinions concerning the road safety situation in Belgrade. The questionnaire was divided in two parts, a heading with the data of the interviewees (age/nationality/ car driver, cyclist, pedestrian…) and a second part containing questions about traffic. Some of them were:
“Do you wear a helmet when you cycle?”
“Do you drive slower when you are approaching a school?”
“Do you cross the street even if the traffic light is red/yellow?”
“Have you ever been involved in a car accident?”
By analyzing the data we could see that more than half of all interviewees had been involved in a car accident, and only 10% wore a helmet while cycling (in the pupil group the number is higher). There is also a large amount of people who said that they don’t drive more carefully near a school. Satisfying results were that almost everyone stops before the crosswalk and they cross the street only when the light is green.
Another group observed an important crossing near our school to see where exactly the risk zones are. Here we counted the number of cars/ buses/ trucks passing a pedestrian crossing in a certain period of time and the number of pedestrians who wanted to cross the street at the same time. We found out that an important and frequently used zebra crossing is used by cars as a parking spot (short and long term parking), so that people who want to pass it are hindered from having a clear view of the street before crossing. The number of cars not stopping at the zebra crossing while pedestrians are waiting is quite high – which creates an extremely dangerous situation for the pupils of our school. But we also found out that quite a lot of people do not even use the zebra crossing when crossing the street (because they want to catch the bus for, example). With such behaviour, they present a risk for themselves as well as the car drivers. The use of a phone while walking or driving is also a frequently observed, potentially dangerous form of behaviour – although it is forbidden. The fact that such behaviour is not sanctioned results in people ignoring the rules.
One group built a miniature model of “our crossing”, which required creativity, imagination and skills in modeling. First, we drew a ground plan of the crossing, including all the zebra crossings, the road signs and some of the buildings. Then we chose the materials we would use. It took several hours to finish the model. The model itself is going to be taken into primary school classes, where we will inform the pupils about our observations and draw their attention to the most dangerous points they should pay attention to while crossing the intersection on their way to school or home. This should enable them to be more aware of how to behave in a risky environment.
The survey group created diagrams that show the results of the interviews. Collected on a poster, they are visible for the school community. Together, with the results of the observation of the zebra crossings, the poster can be used during lessons to discuss the gap between reality and legislature and the attitude of the people.
The third group made a movie in which situations of risky and responsible behaviour are compared to each other. The movie is to be published on the school homepage in order to be available for the community. We also plan to show it in primary school classes to teach the younger pupils about how to behave responsibly. The pupils of this third group were responsible for the production of the movie; they were the actors, cutters, script writers and musicians.
The teachers were always there to answer questions, organize and manage the work, but the products and action itself were always in the hands of our pupils.