It has been stated that from a public health perspective, road safety education and training seem to be largely ineffective and divert funds, resources and attention away from better-based and more effective countermeasures. It has also been stated that road safety professionals and governments need to be more questioning of the worth of educational and training approaches and have the courage to say ?NO? to advocates, lobbyists and politicians who want to expend road safety funds and resources on unproven education and training programs (Christie 2002).
However, the contribution of road safety education and training as a road safety countermeasure should not only be evaluated against immediate outcomes relevant to the public health agenda, but also against the future requirements of maintaining positive health outcomes. Education and training play a vital role in preparing road users by developing skills and understandings and providing real world experiences which over time, enable them to make safe and responsible choices as road users; to contribute to the development of a ?road safety culture? in the community and set the scene for further initiatives to be introduced. These are surely legitimate uses of road safety funds.
Whilst it is sensible to fund countermeasures which will rapidly reduce the road toll, it is equally important that adequate funding also be allocated to education and training as part of a longer term strategy. The current emphasis in favour of engineering solutions and the focus on speed management cannot be denied, and is certainly a major priority. These measures will certainly have a positive impact on road trauma in the present, but they will do little to teach young people today and in the future, the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will influence them to behave safely on our roads. Whilst an engineering focus accepts the responsibility of creating a safe road environment, it is equally clear that such an environment is still a long way from being realised. In these circumstances, a reasonable balance between engineering, enforcement and education should be maintained. It should also be acknowledged that the National Road Safety Strategy 2001-2010 and the National Road Safety Action Plan clearly articulate the role of education and training with specific reference to the preparation of road users.
The road safety education and training literature cites numerous examples of programs that demonstrate positive road safety outcomes. This paper will discuss these examples with a particular emphasis on the role of parents as educators and role models. The considerable body of research, which describes the road safety benefits of practical, supervised training of young children, will also be addressed.