Road safety education for children is one of the most important means for raising awareness of road safety and for educating children to behave safely as pedestrians, bicycle riders, and vehicle passengers. The current research presents a novel attempt to examine the effect of a unique road safety educational program for kindergarten children on a secondary target group—the parents. The program, named the “Zahav Bagan” program (ZBP), is presented at kindergartens once a week during the entire academic year. It is conducted by senior citizen volunteers and is part of the formal education of the children.
This study focuses on a unique road safety educational program for children, built and maintained by Ms. Ronit Raviv and the Or-Yarok Association. The program, conducted in over 1700 kindergartens in Israel, is called Zahav Bagan (translated from Hebrew as: ‘gold in the kindergarten’). The word zahav has a double meaning in Hebrew—it means ‘gold’, referring to “golden age” (as in old age), and it is also an acronym that stands for Road Safety. The Zahav Bagan Program (ZBP) is a unique volunteer-based educational program operated by the Or-Yarok (Hebrew for: greenlight) Association and conducted by senior citizen volunteers. The volunteers are 60–96 years old (mean 72) and mostly females (approximately 70%). They visit the kindergartens where they are assigned every week throughout the school year, and in cooperation with the kindergarten teacher, implement various activities related to road safety, based on a structured program. The volunteers start implementing ZBP in their assigned kindergarten after completing a personal interview by the area coordinator, learning about the program’s goals and about ways to build a good relationship with the children based on trust, love and respect. The volunteers each provide an average of about 200 hours of volunteer work per year. The objectives of the program are to: engrave the notion of road safety as “a way of life” among children; promote the awareness of community volunteer work—especially among volunteering seniors; create the possibility for volunteers in the community to take a significant role in kindergarten activity; and promote a bond between the senior citizen volunteers and the kindergarten children.
The activities in the program include themes dealing with children’s behavior on the road, as passengers, as bike riders and as pedestrians. The volunteers are trained by professional road safety guides (who are also volunteers) and work under the supervision of the Or-Yarok Association. In addition, the volunteers receive a monthly edition of an educational manual that contains ideas for road safety activities (e.g., story reading, creative artwork, games, and quizzes) with relation to current holidays and events of the month. The program’s main focus is on four core subjects: road crossing safety behavior, child behavior as vehicle passenger, safety behavior while riding a bike and safety behavior while playing outdoors. The novelty of this program is based on the cooperation of several different people working together: parents, teachers, senior citizen volunteers, and indirectly, the whole community. The older population is often considered a high-risk group in road safety, due to deterioration of their cognitive and physical abilities, as well as in the lengthening of their response time. Nevertheless, taking an active part in community life is the foundation of good health among the older population, together with a sense of control and efficacy. Therefore, incorporating retirement age volunteers into educational programs for children in general, and education in the field of road safety in particular, allows volunteers to have positive influence in their own community, and to be exposed to road safety content that can be helpful for their own safety as well as for the safety of the children. The integration of volunteers in kindergartens may also contribute to the sense of accomplishment and self-worth of the senior citizens.
The main purpose of the current study was to compare the behavior, awareness, and knowledge about child road safety, of two groups of parents—those whose children participated in the ZBP group, and those whose children did not; this latter group was the control group. A telephone-based survey was conducted using a sample of 76 ZBP parents and 59 control group parents. Results of the survey showed no effect of ZBP on parents' knowledge of child road safety law and recommendations, but more importantly, the results did show a significant effect in terms of parents’ observance of safe behavior and in their awareness of road safety in everyday life. These results confirm the importance of educational programs on road safety, especially as triggers and reminders to children and to their parents, to act as cautious road users.