It’s been 20 years since Ruben the Road Safety Bear launched. His look might have changed, but the foundation road safety skills he teaches to Waikato children hasn’t.
Waikato Regional Council launched the programme in 1997 because children aged 3-7 years were identified as being at highest risk of injury in and around the region’s roads.
The programme’s 20th birthday was celebrated in Taupō on Monday with the Mountview School community, tamariki from Te Kōhanga Reo Atawhai, as well as people who work with Ruben to keep children safe.
To celebrate his milestone a new storybook about road safety and incorporating Matariki has been published in Māori and English and is now also available as a free interactive smartphone app.
Regional council transport project administrator Jenny Davis said: “Ruben’s image has, like most of us, changed a little over the years, but his zest for delivering road safety lessons and his popularity are booming.”
Last year over 400 road safety lessons were delivered in a mixture of both English and Māori to more than 22,000 children across the Waikato region. Teachers report noticeable improvements in road safety behaviour resulting from the lessons.
“Parents tell us that after Ruben’s lessons their children remind them to do the right thing like ‘buckle in tight’, wear their helmets ‘right and tight’ and ‘stop look listen and link’ before crossing the road,” said Ms Davis.
“Over the years he’s taught hundreds of thousands of pre-school and primary aged children, and received thousands of letters and drawings from young fans.
“Of course many of them are now adults, but even now they’ll approach us at public events and in schools to reminisce about their lessons with Ruben as youngsters.
“It just goes to show how effective and memorable the programme is,” Ms Davis said.
More information about the programme can be found at www.ruben.govt.nz.