Three-Year Florida Grant Program Successful in Educating Young Children

With more and more children attending licensed child-care centers, the Florida Health & Rehabilitation Services Child Day Care Licensure Program recognized, through its regulatory association with licensed child-care facilities, a unique opportunity to reach and educate this young, at-risk group of children.

Therefore, a program of child passenger safety education was initiated through a grant funded by the Florida Bureau of Public Safety Management. The stated goal was to reduce serious injury and fatalities to Florida's young children as a result of improper, or lack of, seat belt and car restraint use.

The HRS Child Day Care Licensure Program, responsible for licensing child-care facilities in 53 counties, established a mechanism to bring the program to young children. The target group was Florida's 5,000 licensed child-care facilities representing over 400,000 children and their families.

This special passenger safety education program featured BUCKLEBEAR¨, a friendly and furry character who has had considerable experience and great success in making buckling up fun for children. Through this special program, every licensed child-care facility in the state received a BUCKLEBEAR Passenger Safety starter kit.

The basic instructional materials were designed for easy use. The kit consisted of a lesson guide with simple activities, a copymaster set of activitity pages coordinated with the lesson guide, a story book and set of posters, pattern guides for a stuffed BUCKLEBEAR and flannel board figures, parking lot sign, hand puppet, and special information pages for parent/caregivers.

In addition to the 5,000 in-classroom facilities, other resource centers were set up containing BUCKLEBEAR lap puppets, audio tapes, puzzle, videos, coloring books, and additional parent information. These materials could be checked out on a lending-library principle. Also, a visit from a bigger-than-life-size BUCKLEBEAR could be scheduled from resource centers to provide transportation safety demonstrations directly to children. With these materials, child-care facilities made passenger safety a part of their daily program and everyone had fun.

The results of the program were outstanding. Actual evaluations from each county surveyed showed increases in seat-belt use. As one example:

Broward County Pilot Project (Five facilities)
 
Facility 1 Pre-survey usage 83%
 Post-survey usage 94%
 
Facility 2 Pre-survey usage 23%
 Post-survey usage 53%
 
Facility 3 Pre-survey usage 60%
 Post-survey usage 75%
 
Facility 4 Pre-survey usage 63%
 Post-survey usage 78%
 
Facility 5 Pre-survey usage 88%
 Post-survey usage 99%

Ninety-one percent of the presenters surveyed indicated that based on observation and remarks from parents, the children increased their safety belt and child restraint usage. In the survey, many positive remarks were made. Here is a small sample:

Parents tell me the children are enthusiastic and are the ones to initiate the use of seat belts [teacher].
One parent who did not provide a child restraint said her child asked where his car seat was, and told her BUCKLEBEAR said he had to have one.
A child said, "Please buckle me up. Don't drive unless I'm in a seat belt."
Another child said, "I can't hang out the window anymore!"
Parents stated that children continued to remind them of BUCKLEBEAR's safety rules.
Children buckled their stuffed animals into car seats.
Children were less resistant about being in car seats.
Children reminded their parents and grandparents to buckle up, and told them that it is a law.

Child-care professionals were the cornerstone of Florida's effort to keep children safe while riding in cars, and licensed professionals had all the support possible to make a difference.

 

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