What the evidence tells us about safety education
Many young people have knowledge about how to behave near trains and tracks, yet are sometimes unable to apply this knowledge in context. We do not know exactly why, but when we look at the research from the road safety education field, it is possible that the reason lies in the delivery of the safety messages.
TrackSAFE identified that, at the most crucial developmental period in their lives as active and responsible citizens of our society, Australian school students have not previously had access to consistent, high quality curriculum-based rail safety education, which evidence suggests is the best way to ensure the messages are retained.
Rail safety programs delivered by rail operators can engage students, however research indicates that:
- one-off approaches, such as presentations by a subject matter expert (SME) in isolation are not an effective method of ensuring students retain safety messages.
- any approach which uses shock or fear to invoke a response in students, (such as stories about people dying or being seriously injured, or graphic photos or images relating to people who have experienced a traumatic incident) without supporting it with positive strengths-based messaging, is counterproductive and can actually increase risk-taking behaviour. This is because the recipient (in this case a student) puts up a ‘shield’ between the shocking message and their own reality.
- student-centred, curriculum-based approaches which are taught over a longer period of time and regularly throughout a student’s life are much more effective, because students can engage deeply with the safety messages which in turn can increase their ‘care factor’.
- curriculum-based approaches combined with high quality SME engagement (i.e. in classroom or in-context learning before and after a school visit) can also be more effective, provided the SME engagement goes beyond information delivery to create a two-way dialogue with students and complement the learning outcomes in the curriculum-based approach.
Evidence-based, capabilities-based rail safety education can contribute to improving the statistics in the long term when combined with other evidence-based initiatives.
The New Zealand Transport Agency have compiled a comprehensive overview of the evidence surrounding safety education in a series of fact sheets.
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