German Polizei teach students street safety

Agnes Gonzales
Contributing writer

***image1***Traffic laws and rules of the road are critical points taught to 5- and 6-year-olds attending Department of Defense Dependent Schools. As part of this program, schools in the KMC go one step further by enlisting the assistance of the German Polizei.
The German Polizei provide a thorough orientation for kindergarten students on their responsibilities when crossing German streets and roads. They also inform the students on what is required of vehicle drivers when approaching pedestrian crosswalks.
Polizei 1st Lt. Lothar Mueller is a familiar person to DODDS kindergarten children. He works for the Youth Traffic School in Kaiserslautern and conducts classes for both German and American kindergartens.
Officer Mueller teaches the children about traffic safety. Topics that he covers are the meaning and importance of signs, colors and crossing the street.
In the class, children are taught to “always” stop at the curb and look carefully in both directions. The children are also taught to signal by sticking their hands straight out and then only step into the crosswalk when the traffic is completely stopped.
During orientation, Officer Mueller was asked why it is important for children to attend the class. He said, “Children are not able to understand traffic scenes, the situations at the crosswalks, where the noise is coming from, nor the speed of the vehicles. Their view is very limited.”
The students recounted their experiences in the class. “The kids put their hands out, looked both ways, but the car didn’t stop,” said Tres Holdenried, a kindergarten student. “Then the policeman yelled at the driver,” he said.
“These kids want to walk to the other side and that’s very dangerous,” said Officer Mueller. “Sometimes grown-ups don’t see you, so you put out your hand and wait for the cars to stop or there are no cars.”
When asked as to what he would like American drivers to remember, he said, “They must stop at the crosswalk. That’s the law. (And) parents should practice with children how to cross the street emphasizing, always stopping at the curb.”
Vogelweh Elementary School principal Sharon Overstreet emphasized the importance of children learning about street safety. “Teaching children the German safety rules, is important because several are a little different than in the (United States). You’re never too young to learn to be safe and responsible.”
The importance of training was reiterated by Suzanne Morrow, the school crossing guard at VES. “Children assume the cars will stop. It is necessary for pedestrians to wait at the curb until the automobile completely stops before they cross the street. It’s important for children and adults to use the crosswalk for their own safety and protection.”
Polizei emphasize that crossing streets requires vigilance, care and above all patience. Children should remember to stop at the curb, look both ways and wait until all traffic is completely stopped or there is no traffic, and then calmly cross the street. Also, everyone should remember to always cross at the designated crosswalk.