Today when I cross an intersection, I still hear my parents, baby sitters and teachers telling me to “look both ways.” Those three words were reinforced by people around me throughout my childhood and now it’s as ingrained in my behavior as eating with a knife and fork. Education comes in many forms, and many of the most important life lessons are learned outside of the classroom.

Road safety demands that sort of awareness–not just in presentations to classes full of glazed students, but in the every-moment education of our cultural customs. As distracted driving comes more into the national focus (an alliterative nickname doesn’t hurt), people are focusing on what forms an education about this dangerous practice will take.

Certainly, and please ignore the pun, this is a two way street. Both motorists and those they share the roads with, cyclists and pedestrians, can do more to understand the dangers and take proper precautions.

In Alameda, California, the rate of accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists is up from last year. But TransForm is looking to do something about that with an innovative and comprehensive approach to child safety.

In concert with a few other notable organizations like the Alameda County Public Health Department and Cycles of Change (which helps to make neighborhoods more accessible and safe for young cyclists), TransForm is a grassroots effort to make Alameda safer.

TransForm is particularly concerned with finding and promoting safe routes for kids walking and riding their bikes to school. Impressively harnessing the wide reach of online resources, they are engaging with schools, neighborhoods and parents to institutionalize safe behavior.  In fact, the group is promoting International “Walk and Roll to School Day” this week and is actively looking for volunteers to hand out prizes to kids in Alameda County.

Implicit in the organization’s message is that it’s better for a neighborhood to be full of walkers and bikers than drivers. As far as catastrophic accidents go, that’s probably right. But there are plenty of kids who must drive to school.

It’s this part of the population that Impact Teen Drivers, another local organization looking to make a major difference in the safety of young people in our community, targets. They’ve partnered with organizations like the California Teachers Union and have done some innovative work to engage the kids they’re trying to reach. An example is their “Create Real Impact” campaign which offers students a chance to win prizes for creating a art (video, written, visual) advocating against reckless and distracted driving.

Here are the truly exceptional winners from the most recent contest.

These are just two great examples of smart programs looking to do some great work by investing in the community and spurring the kind of interaction and conversations that will make tragic incidents like these far less frequent.

Got a tip about an organization doing important work for pedestrian, cyclist or motorist safety in your community? Send them to my way!

Photo credit: Antonio Esponda

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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.