Best idea: Traffic school for children (and parents)

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JERRY WAY
DIRECTOR OF TRANSPORTATION
SACRAMENTO, CALIF.

In the early 1990s Sacramento elementary school budgets, including bus service, were being cut. Parents began driving kids to school and, for safety's sake, walking them to the front door. The result: dangerous congestion every morning and afternoon.

A concerned council member met with the public works director and Jerry Way, an investigator in the city's traffic engineering division at the time.

“We decided to educate the parents, and the best way to do that was through the children,” says Way. “So I created the Captain Jerry Traffic Safety Program.” A California Office of Traffic Safety grant underwrote development and implementation in 1991.

Given the K-thru-6 attention span, the curriculum uses visuals to hold kids' attention for a 30-minute presentation covering crosswalks, seat belts, school bus and bicycle safety, and “stranger danger.” Kids are encouraged to share what they learn with their parents through brochures that were paid for through the grant.

“Our guys built a portable traffic signal I could carry around on a hand truck; and for nine years, I visited 10 to 15 elementary schools every year,” says Way. His employees are still teaching the program.

The grant also funded five public service videos, starring Way as Captain Jerry, that aired on a local TV station. “We have a miniature town here in Sacramento called Safetyville that teaches kids about traffic,” he says. “Volunteers helped me build the Captain Jerry Traffic Safety Theater with zero budget. That theater still exists, and it still runs those videos in a continuous loop.”