23 – Developing Road Safety Awareness For a Lifetime: Teaching them Young

June 26, 2014 | Posted in Global Road Safety, Podcast Episodes

Share Button
Jorge Baxter and Road Safety Ambassador Grover

Jorge Baxter and Road Safety Ambassador Grover

Jorge Baxter is the Regional Director in Latin America for Sesame Workshop.[1] With over 15 years in the education, arts, and media fields and extensive experience in leveraging media and education for social change, Mr. Baxter is now raising awareness and educating young children about the deadly issue of traffic crashes. In this episode Mr. Baxter discusses what Sesame Workshop is doing to make an impact on traffic safety: globally, regionally and locally.

Traffic Safety is a Global Issue

  • Road traffic crashes take the lives of nearly 1.3 million people every year, with almost half being pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Between 20-50 million people are injured in crashes.
  • Road traffic crashes have become a leading cause of death for our youth.
The Road Safety Tag is the global symbol of the movement to improve safety on the roads.

The Road Safety Tag is the global symbol of the movement to improve safety on the roads.

Because of statistics like that, the United Nations declared 2011-20120 the Decade of Action for Road Safety. With a goal of saving 5 million lives by 2020, governments and non-governmental organizations are taking action to change those numbers. Sesame Workshop is one of those organizations.

Joining forces with FIA Foundation and Road Safety Global Partnership, Sesame Workshop is developing educational and advocacy material that is engaging and captures children’s and even parent’s attention. When looking at the issue of traffic safety, Sesame Workshop noted that road crashes disproportionally effect the youth and believes it can make a difference globally because of its educational experience and established contacts.

Starting at a Young Age

When making a decision to get involved, Sesame Workshop examines if there is a compelling reason, and if the issue is one for early childhood. Clearly in this situation, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. With a dearth of early childhood material on traffic safety, it provided an excellent opportunity to be engaged in the issue.

Children are not born knowing road safety issues

Children are not born knowing road safety issues

Children are not born knowing road safety issues, and early interaction can be important. Sesame Workshop’s forte is focusing on children ages 3 to 7 and those individuals in a child’s “circle of influence.” Children learn about their environment from their interaction with adults, so targeting the parents as well as the children is an important part of the process. Real impact happens when children and adults talk about road safety together. It is also important that parents act as a good role model on safety practices, like looking both ways before crossing the road.

Public Service Announcements with Grover

A lot of the material looks at educating young children on such safety issues as:

  • Playing near roads
  • Pedestrian safety, and
  • Bicycle safety and wearing a helmet

To help share the message, Sesame Workshop convinced a well-known celebrity to be a road safety ambassador: Grover, the Muppet. Grover is someone children know and find attractive; and he is curious and adventurous. In the traffic safety PSAs created with Grover, he uses the universal “Thumbs Up” to indicate he is safe and ready to go.

Developing a Localized Message

In developing the message, it was important to recognize that local issues make a difference. What works for a rural area will not work for an urban area and vice versa. There can even be large differences within a country, thus it is important to create material that can be used in local areas.

Children learning about road safety at a young age will be a lesson that will last for a lifetime.

Children learning about road safety at a young age will be a lesson that can last for a lifetime.

Partnering with Inter-American Development Bank, FIA Foundation and the Costa Rican government, Sesame Workshop has developed a pilot project for Costa Rica. Using local experts and international research on what works, a tool kit for teachers was created. The kit allows teachers to provide children road safety messages that compliment their current teaching curriculum and daily activities in their own community.

Part of the kit includes a “Big Book” that can be used in different group settings. The Big Book includes a series of stories on road safety along with a DVD of audiovisual content. It even has animations created by Plaza Sesamo[2] incorporated into the messaging. Teachers are also trained on road safety so they understand the issues and how they might teach it. By having children take the road safety message home to their parents, it also encourages parents to learn about the issue. Some common topics include: crossing the road, what road signs and signals mean and pedestrian safety. In this fashion, the teachers, the children, and the parents are all learning about traffic safety.

The Ultimate Goal

Sesame Workshop focuses on having an impact; getting children motivated, changing behavior and ultimately on this issue, saving lives. This tool kit and the PSA messaging will empower children to respect cars, understand the dangers around roads and likewise engage their parents. This way children also become change agents for the adults. With the parents involved, the messages are spread throughout the family and into the community. Finally, children learning about road safety at a young age will be a lesson that can last for a lifetime.

Related Links




Road Safety Ambassador Grover

Sesame Workshop has appointed Grover as the Road Safety Ambassador as part of the United Nations Decade of Action on Road Safety.

[1] Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. Established 40 years ago, its mission is to use media to educate children around the world.

[2] Plaza Sesamo is the Spanish-language adaptation of Sesame Street for Latin America.

Read More →

10 – Traffic Safety: A New Year; A New Direction

Fork in the Road

January 1, 2014 | Posted in Global Road Safety, Podcast Episodes

Share Button

A Conversation with Monika Samtani

Traffic Safety

Monika Samtani

Monika Samtani is an award-winning journalist, a business entrepreneur, and a mother of three.   As a media professional for over 20 years, currently the traffic anchor on Washington, DC’s WUSA 9’s Morning News, and the host for a morning news transportation segment called the Extra Mile, Monika provides a unique perspective on traffic safety.  She understands the importance for all of us to “just drive.”

Going the Extra Mile

While reporting traffic crashes from around the Washington D.C. metro area, Monika sees the significant impact poor choices can have on driving.  Speaking with me between her traffic reports, Monika provides a glimpse into the world of reporting traffic crashes, and why she says, “Just drive.”

During her Extra Mile segment, Monika interviews traffic safety professionals on what can be done to be safer. Her interviews include speaking with Tim Hollister, Author and National Teen Driver Safety Advocate, and Kate Carr, CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.  A side-benefit of all that she has learned at work allows her to share it with her family, including her teenage son who is just learning to drive.  Accused by her son of ‘knowing too much,’ Monika discusses what we all need to do to be safe drivers.

In her ‘free time,’ Monika is the President of Ms. Media, producing videos and providing public speaking training, and the founder of the Launch Network, a premiere networking organization connecting entrepreneurs and professional women in the U.S.

A New Direction

A New Direction for Traffic Safety

Is safety part of your New Year’s Resolutions?

Also during this episode, as the Traffic Safety Guy, I talk about the New Year and call on all of us to take a new direction for safety.  For many, the New Year is a time of resolutions and individual efforts for self-improvement.  Self–improvement should not be limited to our health.  Did you know that:

  • A 5% cut in average speed can result in 30% reduction in the number of fatal crashes.
  • Not drinking and driving significantly reduces the risk of a traffic crash.
  • Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can result in a 40% reduction to risk of death and 70% reduction of a serious injury.
  • Wearing seat belts reduces the risk of a fatal injury by 50% for the front seat occupants and up to 75% for the rear seat passengers.
  • Child restraints reduce the likelihood of a fatal crash 70% for infants and 54%-80% for young children.

What could be more about self-improvement than taking action to be a safer driver?

Many countries have strong national laws covering these specific issues, but the vast majority of countries acknowledge that more has to be done to enforce them.  For a societal change, it takes awareness, understanding AND enforcement.  Yet knowledge IS power, and each of us can make a difference; a difference in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us.

A New Year’s Resolution for Safety

Traffic Safety

What direction will your actions take you in 2014?

During this New Year, resolve to take a new direction in your life. Take this time to understand the importance of your actions.  Recognize that each of us plays a role in saving lives.  Use your expanding awareness and implement new behaviors to be a safer driver.

In this time of reflection of years past and contemplation of dreams to come, I wish you a very safe and joyous journey wherever life’s road takes you.

Happy New Year!



Related Links:





Read More →

07 – Snap-2-Live & Seat Belts: Where Safety and Fashion “Click” Together


December 1, 2013 | Posted in Global Road Safety, Podcast Episodes

Share Button

A Conversation with Ernesto Arguello


Ernesto Arguello wearing a Snap-2-Live belt

Ernesto Arguello is an international entrepreneur focused on creating new ventures that offer opportunities for others, which includes traveling everywhere to save lives with a “simple” message: Snap-2-Live.

Recognizing that traffic crashes are the number one killer of youth around the globe, Ernesto looked for a way to make a difference and stop the carnage.  One of the most effective and simplest ways he found is for everyone to buckle their seat belt when in a car.  However, being a proponent of encouraging youth to remember to fasten their seat belts can be challenging.  His solution?  Snap-2-Live.

Safety Belts and Snap-2-Live

Snap-2-Live is a belt worn for everyday activities that looks like a seat belt from a car.  Made of the same type of material but with bright colors, it stands out, and family and friends see it and ask what it represents.  By wearing the belt, it is Ernesto’s expectation that it will spark a discussion on the importance of wearing a seat belt, and create an easy reminder to use it in the car.


Snap-2-Live Belt and packaging

Ernesto has a deep belief in the importance of education.  The son of refugees, he learned that education is something we can take with us anywhere we go—no matter what other possessions we do or do not have. That belief has driven his effort to educate everyone about seat belts.  The outside of the packaging for a Snap-2-Live belt asks for a pledge to “join the fight against road crashes” by:

  • Wearing a seat belt
  • Not drinking and driving
  • Not texting while driving, and
  • Respecting traffic signals

While raising awareness of road safety issues, Ernesto is also elevating communities in Latin America. Using education as a base, he is creating and building “sustainable communities that offer housing, infrastructure, education, health, recreation and entrepreneurial programs,” called Education Model Towns.

The Decade of Action for Road Safety

Snap 2 Live Launch

David and Ernesto at the Launch Network Event

Also in this episode, David Wallace, the Traffic Safety Guy, discusses global traffic safety issues and why the U.N. has declared 2011-2020 to be the Decade of Action for Road Safety.  From the research we know:

  • Road traffic crashes take the lives of nearly 1.3 million people every year, with almost half being pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Between 20-50 million people are injured in crashes.
  • Road traffic injuries have become the leading cause of death for people 15–29 years of age

Failing to wear seat belts is one of the five critical risk factors identified by the United Nations in its effort to increase road safety. The other four are: speed, drink-driving, failing to wear helmets, and not using child restraints.  In other words, when worn, seat belts can lessen the impact of the other risk factors. For example, someone impaired from drink-driving but wearing a seat belt is more likely to survive a crash than someone who isn’t wearing one.

Wearing a seat belt is a critical road safety component. Snap-2-Live challenges everyone to make a fashion statement: always “click” the two ends together when in a car and save lives.

How have seat belts made a difference in your life?





Video Clips:

Read More →

03 – Gerald Waters: Making a Difference in New Zealand

Gerald Waters and Drink Driving

October 12, 2013 | Posted in Global Road Safety, Podcast Episodes

Share Button

One Person Can Be a Beacon of Change

Gerald Waters

Gerald Waters (front, center) receiving the Barry Sweedler Award

Gerald Waters is one of New Zealand’s leading advocates on ways to effectively respond to alcohol and drug offenders.  In 2010, his dear friend Katherine Kennedy was killed because of a drink driver.  (“Drink Driving” is how New Zealand refers to impaired driving.) Gerald has committed himself to learning about, researching, and promoting evidence-based ways to end drink driving.

Hearing that the man who killed his friend had 17 prior drink driving convictions, and yet he was still drinking and driving, was “madness.”  After this terrible tragedy, Gerald turned to understanding why this madness occurred.  It was that journey that allowed him to develop his research and ultimately his message of change.  Using his evidence-based research papers, and a drive for understanding, Gerald has brought together an impressive coalition of partners, and is changing how New Zealand responds to drink drivers.  In this episode, Gerald discusses his journey and lets us hear about his perseverance and determination.

New Zealand Impaired Driving

One Person Can Make a Difference

During our conversation, Gerald talks about building the coalition, and how he met individuals all across New Zealand who agreed with his research, and had previously felt that they were left in the dark, alone.  With the power of his writing and the passion of his voice, Gerald let those individuals know that they were not alone and change is possible.  He has become an inspiration of positive change.  Because of Gerald’s activities, New Zealand has taken a fresh look at ending drink driving through the use of ignition interlock devices, DWI/Drug Courts, and more.  Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Change is happening in New Zealand, and it can happen where you live.

Wrapping up, the Traffic Safety Guy discusses making changes in our own lives. It shouldn’t take the loss of a family member or friend for us to care. All it takes is an understanding that individually we can make a difference.  “Change” starts at home.  It means talking the talk and walking the walk. As a positive role model for not drinking and driving, we can impact our family and friends and save lives.  As a positive role model we can all be an inspiration and make a difference.

Related Links:

Gerald Water’s Websites:

A Partial List of Gerald Water’s Research:

Global Road Safety:

Richard Roth’s Website:

Read More →