Strategies For Reaching Parents

No Parking Passenger Zone 7AM to 9AM 2PM to 4PM

Parking signage indicates special rules during school drop-off and pick-up times, Seattle, WA.

Traffic Safety Day at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, CA.

A variety of strategies can be used to reach parents as they teach their children safety skills and drive on the school campus and adjacent streets.

  1. Print materials
    To communicate with parents, school web sites, emails to parents, or information sent home with students can all be used. In California, some schools hold "Traffic Safety Days" to promote safe driving in the school zone, as well as encourage safe walking and bicycling. School officials, parent volunteers, police officers and others distribute flyers and talk to drivers who pick up or drop off children. Walkers and bicyclists are given safety information and incentives at a welcome table as they arrive at the school.
  2. Enforcement strategies
    Signs, pavement markings, notices and educational flyers placed on windshields of illegally parked motor vehicles remind parents of proper rules and procedures. See Enforcement for more information.
  3. Media stories
    Local news stories that focus on Safe Routes to School (SRTS) can also include key messages about pedestrian, bicyclist and traffic safety.
  4. Training
    While many parents feel comfortable teaching their child pedestrian safety, they sometimes feel less prepared to teach bicycling rules of the road. One bicycle club in Marin County, California responded to this need by offering a training class for parents on how to teach bicycling skills to their children. Some communities have sought ways to improve parents' driving behavior through training.

For more information see Strategies for reaching all drivers near the school and Student Drop-off and Pick-up.

Putting It Into Practice: Parent Safety Drive Initiative

Dorset County Council, Dorset County, England

Dorset County Council's innovative Parent Safety Drive was piloted at Sherborne's Abbey Primary School in 2003. It aims to reduce the county's high number of child passenger injuries and to cut down on unnecessary trip to school by motor vehicle by helping and encouraging parents to become better, safer and more sensible drivers. Linked to the development of school community supported travel plans, this scheme aims to change parent attitudes to motor vehicle use in a practical, non-threatening way. The initiative is promoted in partnership with the local National Health Service Primary Care Trust, which provides a range of health services for local people and is eager to work in partnership with the local highway authority to reduce the number of child transportation-related injuries and improve driving standards.

The focus of the program is to:

  • Improve parents' driving standards
  • Reduce the number of child road casualties
  • Encourage more sensible use of the motor vehicle
  • Reduce the number of parent vehicles within the immediate environment of the school

Parents spend an hour with an experienced driving instructor who shares useful defensive driving and hazard awareness advice and tips using familiar local streets. There is no test or assessment involved. Parents drive on a range of roads, including congested urban environments and quieter but faster rural roads. Safer parking and reversing techniques are included in the session together with an opportunity to discuss in-car safety issues and suggestions for locations to park and walk the remainder of the trip to school. Highway code knowledge is revisited as well. It is promoted as a rare chance to refresh driving skills, perhaps for the first time since taking a driving test. There is a fee for the drive of £18 per hour, but a subsidy is planned. Evaluation from parents who have participated was reported as encouraging.

This initiative requires schools to recruit volunteers and to promote the concept of parent driver improvement as a fundamental objective in the school travel planning process. It also requires persuading some parents that you never stop learning as a driver and that 100 percent concentration is required.