Sunday October 14, 2012
Naughty or naive?
Many children are unaware that behaving badly in moving vehicles is a catalyst to road accidents.
EVERY driver knows that speed can kill. But there is something else more fatal that is often overlooked by both drivers and passengers: distraction.
Distraction while driving has caused more accidents than most people realise, mainly because they happen within seconds.
Apart from mobile phone distractions, a child’s behaviour can cause the driver to take his eyes off the road.
The biggest irony is that most children are unaware that their behaviour can affect the driver, says Fatimah Zahara, a teacher at Plaza Damansara Smart Reader Kids preschool centre.
Flashing a card that shows two youngsters fighting, she asks the children in her class if it was something they should be doing in their parents’ car.
“No! No!” cry the children as they laugh and nudge each other. It was obviously a scene they were familiar with, especially with younger siblings.
Fatimah proceeds to list behaviours that commonly occur in moving vehicles while asking the children if those behaviours were safe or unsafe.
Jumping in the car and putting hands or heads out of the window received the loudest negative responses while reading and listening to music were greeted with affirmative replies.
Although many were aware that boisterous behaviours such as shouting or fighting may put them at risk of getting hurt if the driver steps on the emergency brakes, most did not know that these disruptive behaviours could affect the mental and emotional state of the driver.
Safe behaviours while travelling in a vehicle is the last lesson in the Toyota Traffic Tots road safety module and is meant to remind children that certain behaviours can disturb the driver and result in accidents.
“It is every parent’s nightmare when their children get restless or start fighting, especially during long road trips. That’s why we feel it is important to inform children of the consequences of bad behaviour when travelling in the car,” says Toyota Traffic Tots programme coordinator and supervisor Siti Mariam Daud.
Bad behaviour can also ruin the mood, she adds, especially when the drivers or parents are forced to give harsh warnings or threats to stop the bickering and jumping.
According to seasoned parent travellers, the trick to reducing bad behaviour in vehicles lies in the preparation.
It helps to be ready with items such as books, snacks, toys, drinks or your child’s favourite music CD beforehand to keep them occupied during long drives or traffic jams.
The Toyota Traffic Tots road safety programme is one of the corporate social responsibility key pillars of UMW Toyota Motor and is focused on road safety among preschool children.
Conducted in 10 selected Smart Reader Kids centres this year, the three-year programme will be extended to more preschools next year and will include Sabah and Sarawak in 2014.
“Passenger behaviour forms an important element in road safety,” says Siti Mariam. “No matter how advanced a car’s safety features are, it all comes to naught if the passengers behave in a rowdy manner that literally drives the driver up the wall.”
She points out that many cars often carry cute decorative signs that state “Baby on board” to explain why they are driving slowly. This cautionary message is lost when the children end up distracting the driver and other drivers in nearby vehicles.
Siti Mariam explains that the entire philosophy behind the programme is to inculcate early road safety behaviours.
“Being trained to behave well in a moving vehicle prepares them for primary school when they begin taking the school bus to school. We hope that this lesson will empower children and equip them with a strong foundation in decision-making, leadership and initiative.”
Ready? It’s time to go!