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Published: 2010-07-29 00:00:00

It’s been a very busy year for Ruben the road safety bear, Environment Waikato’s popular road safety mascot.

Ruben and his team delivered road safety lessons to over 18,300 Waikato children and gave more than 280 road safety presentations across the region during the 2009-10 financial year, according to an evaluation report for EW carried out by Momentum Research and Evaluation Ltd.

Ruben and his team of presenters promote road safety to children aged from three to seven at schools, pre-schools, kohanga reo and kura kaupapa. They use fun and interactive presentations, songs, lessons and activities to teach the children basic road safety skills.

The programme is designed to teach the youngest and most vulnerable members of the community how to be safe around roads, schools, in cars and on driveways as they start to learn vital independent walking and cycling skills. Caregivers are also educated on important issues such as car seat safety and demonstrating safe road crossing techniques.

In addition to the launch of his new story book ‘Ruben’s Big Day Out’ at Newstead School, other highlights of the purple bear’s year included reaching a record total of 3921 Kids Club members and 18,878 unique visits to his website www.ruben.govt.nz.

Feedback from community, school teachers and staff was very positive with 99 per cent of those interviewed rating their road safety lesson as "very educational" or "educational", and the presenters rated as professional, with the presentations fun, age-appropriate, and engaging.

The evaluation also found that the programme met or exceeded all documented aims and deliverables and continues to be a valuable, effective and well-targeted strategy for educating young children about road safety.

Ruben and his team travelled widely throughout the region delivering road safety lessons in every district, often assisting road safety coordinators, health workers and police education officers. Ruben also appeared at community events including the Hamilton Gardens Teddy Bears Picnic and Marae family health days. The ongoing development of te reo Māori and bi-lingual resources has been a key focal point for the team this year, with the aim for the next year to bring on a team to present a full te reo Māori programme.

Ruben has six key safety messages for young children:

  • Look about before stepping out - Tirohia, takahia
  • Stop, look, listen and link - Taihoa, titiro, whakarongo whakahono
  • Be bright, dress bright - Kākahu pai kia mārama ai
  • Look out for sneaky driveways - Kimihia ngā putanga waka e huna ana
  • Helmet on right and tight - He pōtae tau-he pōtae mau
  • Seat yourself right, buckle in tight - Kia tāu – kia māu