Education on the Go
Chicago’s SAFE Ambassadors are traffic safety experts who tailor our approach to meet city residents where they are—and where they live, work or go to school. Working year-round since 2001, we directly educate children, teens, adults and seniors to help them envision and achieve a safe, comfortable transportation space, no matter how they get around.
During the school year, SAFE Ambassadors go to public and private schools and speak to individual classrooms of 2nd, 5th and 10th grade students. We tailor presentation content and activities to meet the needs of the age group and community. For elementary schools, we also offer a second outdoor session to practice safety techniques and reinforce classroom learning.
Elementary Presentations: First Visit
We visited 90 elementary schools during the 2018-19 school year, reaching more than 12,000 students. During 2020-21, when we all had to adjust to health restrictions, we distributed our self-produced video education to 103 schools.
Ambassadors teach students a technique called the “Lean & Peek” that enables them to check traffic for safe crossing conditions when encountering buses or other large objects. Students also learn to identify tricky crossing situations, find an appropriate walking buddy, and to check “left, right, behind, left again” before crossing the street.
Bicycle safety education is the focus for this age level. Students learn how to select highly visible attire and equipment, as well as the value of predictable behaviors: riding in a straight line, hand signals, riding with traffic, and following the rules of the road.
Elementary Presentations: Second Visit
40 schools were visited twice during the 2018-19 season, helping children bring the classroom lessons of the first visit into real-life practice.
During a return visit, Ambassadors lead the students on a neighborhood walk with three challenges to complete: crossing at a crosswalk; crossing an alley, using the Lean & Peek; and an emergency crossing in the middle of the street, also using the Lean & Peek.
Ambassadors lead students in an experiment to determine the speed of cars, explaining the math used to calculate miles per hour. The outdoor lesson emphasizes that students can’t control drivers’ choice of speed, but they can control their own choices—being visible and predictable, and wearing a helmet.
High School Presentations
We visit 10th graders in driver education class, an important part of a young person’s life and a crucial time for remaining aware of all the other people trying to get somewhere by walking, biking or taking public transit. We now offer both video-conference and in-person presentations.
The high school presentation is very conversational and personal to the students’ own experiences. Ambassadors discuss all transportation options, and the risks and responsibilities inherent in each. We also explain the laws pertaining to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, much like the information distributed at traffic safety events.