“We saw that students could really make a difference because it was from their perspective, not adults’.”
Senior Constable Anna Duncan knows that if a school road safety project is ever going to get off the ground it needs to be student-led.
The Taranaki police officer’s first glimpse of this successful formula came with a 2007 inter-agency project she was involved in called Kids Involved in Driving Down Speed (KIDDS).
Children from six New Plymouth primary schools collected passing vehicle speed data, along with road and weather conditions outside their school. They analysed the data, identified key issues and worked together to develop potential solutions.
A number of road safety initiatives were implemented as a result and the project won a Road Safety Innovation Award in 2008.
“We saw that students could really make a difference because it was from their perspective, not adults,” she says.
“To get the information back to families that’s the best way of doing it. If the students are interested in what’s happening you’re 90 percent of the way to getting it working. If they’ve got no buy-in it’s really not going to go anywhere.”
Anna’s strong working relationship with these schools has helped pave the way for further projects, including cycle safety programmes and the development of school travel plans and maps.
The maps include safe walking routes to school, places to park and walk, locations of zebra and kea crossings, and scenic pathways to explore. There is information on etiquette for pedestrians and cyclists sharing pathways and how children can earn a ‘Hero 200’ badge by walking to school.
Anna still works on the streets of New Plymouth, as well as attending major events, and finds her rapport with the city’s young people very helpful.
“A lot of young people don’t have a positive relationship with police so mine is a proactive role but it has to be about what the community wants as well. I have to be flexible to fit in with what they want.”