Racing for Bike Safety
Ashley Opp Hofmannc
Photo at right: Children of all ages and abilities learn about bike safety through the Racing for Safety bike course.
“School-aged children like to learn from those who are a little bit older than them, like teens and college-aged students,” says Janet Stout Everly, EdD, OTR, associate professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy at Indiana University (IU) in Indianapolis. So who better to teach children bike safety than older kids, teens, and college students?
IU occupational therapy students and faculty created a Web site aimed at these “big kids” to show them how to facilitate bike safety events, complete with a bike safety course. The idea came about when IU faculty planned for a “non-thesis project” class of four master’s candidates. “AOTA’s Centennial Vision recommended that occupational therapy practitioners examine roles and responsibilities in schools and the community,” Everly explains. “My interest in the occupation of play and the interest of my long-time colleague, Karen Bruner Stroup, PhD, Director of the Community Education and Child Advocacy Department at Riley Hospital for Children, in child injury prevention came together. It was the perfect opportunity for us to join forces to help prevent bike injuries, one of the leading causes of unintentional injury admissions to Riley Hospital.”
To do so, Everly and Stroup envisioned a project to educate children on bike safety, such as the correct way to wear a helmet, ensuring a bike is safe to ride, traffic safety basics, and so on. “The information was already available through Riley Hospital Community Education and Child Advocacy in a manual available in hard copy and for downloading off the Riley Hospital Web site, but we thought our efforts would be vastly multiplied if we could find a way and a format that would motivate teens and college students in Indiana and across the country to share this information with peers and younger children,” Everly says.
The format, they knew, was key. Expecting teen volunteers to read and review a manual or even a DVD seemed unrealistic. Everly and Stroup hit upon the idea of creating a Web site that would showcase how to plan and present a bike safety course for volunteers, featuring “webisodes” (online videos) to visually demonstrate key education and set-up information. “We decided to give it a try—even though we had no budget!” Everly says. The four graduate students—Sarah Hall, Janelle Kindler, Sarah Komasinski, and Denise Schuman—took the idea and ran with it, organizing the project, disseminating information, and doing actual bike safety events to pilot the instructional content for the Web site.
To support the project, Everly, Stroup, and the students formed partnerships—a vital part of the project’s success and its continuing capabilities to attract funding support. Stroup’s connections at Riley with several colleagues led to a partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Productions. Nena Ray, coordinator for Indiana’s Think First Program (dedicated to prevention of spinal cord injuries), joined the team. These connections brought Indy Racing League driver, Ed Carpenter, on board to the project as a spokesperson for bike safety. Carpenter is the featured narrator for all seven current webisodes.
Again, working with no budget, the project team secured Julie Andrews, a student at the IU School of Informatics who needed to create a Web site for a class project. A passionate race fan, Andrews made the project team’s vision of a “race theme” a reality, creating racingforsafety.org. “Indianapolis is the racing capital of the world,” Everly says. “Lots of people worldwide are race fans, so that seemed to be a universal theme we could use that would attract young people, especially, to visit and put the information on this Web site to work in their communities.”
Cara Fast, Manager of Riley Hospital’s Safety Store (which sells low-cost safety gear and provides injury prevention education), also served on the project team, helping to write the scripts for the webisodes and acting as a liaison between the production company and the IU Occupational Therapy Department. Fast, whose husband is a spotter on an IRL racing team, brought to the project team her connections and knowledge of both the racing world and child safety. “We put this information in a format where it’s easily understandable,” Fast says. “The site is user friendly and easy for young people to get accurate information quickly.”
Ultimately, “the Web site’s purpose is to prevent injuries—proper use of a helmet can reduce injuries by up to 85%. Along with that, the site promotes health and wellness through exercise and play,” Everly says. The site provides instructions on how to do bike safety events; printable flyers, handouts, and stop/yield/turn signs; information on how to create press releases; and, of course, the webisodes.
The Web site also benefits those who coordinate events. “The Web site is truly a unique tool that not only promotes occupational performance, safety, and healthy habits for children of all abilities, but it also empowers adolescents and young adults to practice their leadership skills,” says Sarah Hall, MS, OTR, one of the students who worked on the project.
“More schools and colleges are including service learning and civic engagement components, and this is something that can be done fairly easily in an afternoon,” Everly says. So far, Circle K members (college community service clubs), Cub Scouts, Key Club members (high school service clubs), and others have participated in Racing for Safety bike course events.
The Web site also boosts the visibility of occupational therapy. “This project promotes occupational therapy as a profession that looks broadly at public health. It gets the idea and importance of occupational therapy out there, to the public. Occupational therapy can be involved in safety, wellness, and injury prevention,” Everly says. She notes that Racing for Safety reflects the ideals of occupational therapy by encouraging children of all abilities to ride and play; facilitating social participation; promoting wellness through exercise; and preventing injury or death.
(Photo: Occupational therapy students helped develop Racing for Safety as part of their coursework.)
The students—each of whom recently graduated—enjoyed the project. “They liked participating with the children and the bike safety events. They really stepped up to the plate and did a great job,” Everly says. “This project showed their professionalism and their leadership in making a difference.”
“As a new occupational therapy practitioner, this tool reminds me how education is so integral to therapists, teachers, parents, students, and those yearning to make a difference,” Hall says. “With such tools, many lives can be touched and maybe even saved.”
Visit Racing for Safety at www.racingforsafety.org.