Guide: Road safety education in secondary schools


Page 1 of Guide: Road safety education in secondary school.
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Young people are extremely vulnerable as road users, especially when they are learning to drive. Secondary schools can play an important role in improving road safety actions taken by their students. Secondary teachers are using curriculum resources provided by the NZ Transport Agency to unpack young people’s mental models about road safety. They are using road safety as an authentic real life context to help students deepen and apply their curriculum learning in all subjects (see Changing Mental Models).This way of learning encourages students to become active citizens with positive, socially-connected road user identities.

What is the best approach?

Research shows that to be effective in schools, road safety education needs to be present at four levels.

Effective road safety education:

At school level

  • happens over time and is developmentally appropriate
  • embeds content in the New Zealand Curriculum
  • involves a whole-school approach ensuring that appropriate traffic safety policies and teacher support is in place
  • is based on best evidence about effective teaching and learning
  • fosters school connectedness – the extent to which students feel accepted and included in the school community
  • is monitored and evaluated

At classroom level

  • is interactive and encourages students to develop social competence and resilience
  • is relevant and has a clear focus on individual learning needs
  • At student level

  • helps students to consider the needs and hear the voices of the pedestrians, cyclists, passengers and drivers who use our roads
  • engages students and supports them to become active citizens who consider our roads a shared space
  • supports students to use their learning to make a difference for themselves and others
  • For family, whānau and community

  • enhances connectedness between students, parents, whānau and local community and supports them to think and act together
  • What good practice in road safety might look like for schools

    To enhance the safety of young road users, schools need to implement a whole of school approach, as well as having specific areas of focus across years 9-13. When teachers adapt road safety education to fit the day-to-day world of their students, it gives young people the opportunity to develop their own ideas and to participate in the process of solving problems.

    What could be included?

    Many aspects of road safety education can be included in the school curriculum. Different learning areas in the curriculum support multiple ways of knowing road safe behaviour.

    Schools can support students to:

    • think critically about how safe road use intersects with both their lives and society as a whole
    • design and implement strategies that make our roads a safer place for everyone
    • develop competencies for decision making and taking action as a pedestrian, cyclist, driver or passenger
    • learn about the importance of practice in relation to the Graduated Driver Licensing System (GDLS)
    • understand why vehicle safety is important
    • understand why we have road laws (for example the Official New Zealand Road Code and the Official New Zealand Code for Cyclists can be introduced as guidelines and rules on how to be active citizens in working together for safer journeys).

    Schools can support families and whānau to:

    • be good road safety role models
    • work together to help reduce the risks young people face as road users.

    Whole-of-school activities

  • the school works and solves problem with local road safety organisations, iwi and hapu, community health groups, and the local council
  • teachers are informed about road safety and use it as a topic to engage students in a range of curriculum areas
  • the school adopts a restorative justice response[i] towards challenging student behaviours
  • parents and caregivers are informed about the road safety education and get involved with children in solving problems
  • the school has a road safety policy and a policy on senior students driving to school
  • What might road safety education look like in years 9-13?

    In years 9-13 road safety education can build students’ knowledge and skills in curriculum areas, and help them learn about and solve problems related to safe travel at the same time.

    This approach is relevant because it deliberately engages with young people’s everyday concerns and emotions in the context of the wider issues of safely sharing the roads. The big idea for students is that all people using our roads are precious so we need to think and act together as citizens to create a safe road system to keep all road users safe(see Transport as a context for encouraging skilled and active citizenship).

    The NZ Transport Agency provides secondary school resources that are designed to enable students’ ownership as citizens so that they actively contribute to a safe road network (see Authentic Learning Trumps Fear Tactics). This focus aligns with the New Zealand Curriculum vision for young people who will be actively involved as participants in a range of life contexts and contributors to the well-being of New Zealand.

    A Road Map for secondary schools outlines resources specific to secondary students and novice drivers. It includes summaries of effective road safety education research.

    Units of work that can be embedded in the day-to-day work of teachers are outlined below. All Assessment Material has been Quality Assured and certified by NZQA.

    Digital Technologies

    Students interview stakeholders about knowledge of risks related to road use, and create a digital media presentation to increase audience awareness of responsible road use. The unit includes an internal assessment resource for Achievement Standard 91073: Implement basic procedures to produce a specified digital media outcome.


    Students gain new power to examine attitudes, behaviours, and values (Ministry of Education, 2007). These units let students express the emotions, thoughts and action inherent in road safety scenarios they create. Includes an internal assessment resource for Achievement Standard 91214: Devise and perform a drama to realise an intention.


    Lessons using these resources involve analysing or creating texts about making the right decisions. The resources include internal assessment resources for Achievement Standard 90052: Produce creative writing, and Achievement Standard 91107: Analyse aspects of visual and/or oral text(s) through close viewing and/or listening, supported by evidence.

    Health and PE

    Healthy communities and environments include how and where we travel. These lessons get students to plan and carry out actions to make their local streets and paths safer for school events. The resources include internal assessment resources for Achievement Standard 90969: Take purposeful action to assist others to participate in physical activity, and Achievement Standard 91237: Take action to enhance an aspect of people’s well-being within the school or wider community.

    Literacy and Numeracy

    This resource has learning experiences that use the Official New Zealand Road Code to integrate learning for citizenship within broad contemporary social issues for safer journeys in New Zealand. This provides contextualised learning to help students meet NZQA literacy and numeracy requirements. Learning experiences provide evidence for assessment for Unit Standards: 26622: Write to communicate ideas for a purpose and audience, 26624: Read texts with understanding, 26625: Actively participate in spoken interactions, 26623: Use numbers to solve problems, 26626: Interpret statistical information for a purpose and 26627: Use measurement to solve problems.


    These curriculum resources allow students to investigate road safety contexts using data sets and draw their own conclusions. In the first statistics unit, students use the Problem, Plan, Data, Analysis and Conclusion (PPDAC) inquiry cycle to carry out a comparative investigation of stopping distances under different conditions. The second unit, Crossing the Centre Line, includes trigonometry. Students investigate the effect of factors such as differing speeds or distraction times on the distance travelled towards the centre line if a car starts to veer towards the right at a small angle.

    Media Studies

    In this resource, students demonstrate understanding of how road users are represented in short media texts designed to educate a target audience about keeping themselves, peers and family safe in and around cars. The resources include Achievement Standard 91250: Demonstrate understanding of representation in the media.


    Students investigate how we use forces to make vehicle crashes survivable. Problem solving, experiments and activities help students develop conceptual understanding of force and motion through the context of technologies used for road safety and safe stopping. The resources include an internal assessment resource for Achievement Standard 90936: Demonstrate understanding of the physics of an application.

    Visual Arts

    These resources support students to use visual literacy for maximum effect when designing safe travel messages aimed at their own generation. The first resource focuses on design practice as students create artwork for road signs or posters that is positive, light-hearted and educational. There is also an internal assessment resource for Achievement Standard 91315: Develop ideas in a related series of drawings appropriate to established design practice. Students undertake research, generate resource imagery for and design a website loading page, and develop typography for a home page, to support a hypothetical advertising campaign about vehicle safety. Good Practice in Road Safety | 4 | Guide: Road safety education in secondary schools

    Where to find additional resources

    School ethos
    Student learning about and for safe road and rail systems is influenced by a positive road safety ethos and organisation in their school.

    Examples of school road safety policy
    To assist children to make safer journeys, schools are encouraged to emphasise road safety through policies and procedures.

    School community partnerships
    Student learning is influenced by consistent messages and practices by all members of the school community. This membership includes parents, students, whānau, school staff, police, and local government.

    Articles about road safety education in New Zealand
    These articles published in magazines and journals aimed at professionals in the school sector outline key directions in road safety education and include case studies.

    NZ Transport Agency newsletters
    These provide a quick way for teachers and partner agencies to get ideas about effective road safety education.

    School Community Officers
    Formerly called Police Education Officers, these experienced police officers specialise in facilitating and delivering prevention-based interventions and services in collaboration with whole school communities, to enhance community safety.
    See also: NZ Police School Portal

    Road safety coordinators

    [i] Macfarlane A., & Margrain V. (2011) ed. Responsive Pedagogy: Engaging Restoratively with Challenging Behaviour. Wellington: NZCER Press.