Catherine Hiles
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Toyota Invests in Safety City Program for Kids

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Toyota Safety City

Second-grader Miles Johnson drives the new EV donated to Safety City by Toyota

Toyota knows that safety behind the wheel is one of the most important challenges facing the auto industry today. With the number of distractions on the rise thanks to the popularity of smartphones and other devices, programs like Toyota’s TeenDrive365 have been helping kids learn safe driving habits right from the get go for around a decade. But now, Toyota is investing in a program that will begin teaching good habits from a much earlier age.

The program, called Safety City, is the brainchild of Eastern Kentucky University and the Lexington Police Department, and is offered free of charge to kids in Lexington, Kentucky. Toyota recently invested $49,000 to help the program purchase 10 electric vehicles designed specifically for children. These vehicles will replace Safety City’s current fleet, which date back to the program’s inception in 1990.

In addition to practical behind-the-wheel experience in tiny kid-sized EVs, Safety First offers hands-on classroom instruction around subjects like traffic and pedestrian safety, and seat belt use.

Toyota Safety City

McKenzie Hutchinson navigates the streets at Safety City in her EV

Lisa Conley, executive director of Safety First, explains it well: “Early education is critical. The purchase of these cars allows us to continue to give young students a meaningful, hands-on experience to help them develop a foundation of safe habits that will be so important in the future.”

“We believe everyone deserves to be safe, and we want to be a part of helping keep people safe, on and off the road,” agrees Wil James, president of Toyota’s Kentucky plant.  “That’s a priority for us, and it’s why we’re investing in programs like Safety City.”

Toyota Safety City

Young Brooklyn Wells shows the correct way to stop at a stop sign to let a pedestrian cross

Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that 2,823 teens ages 13 – 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2012. This number is significantly lower than in previous years (7% lower than 2011), but it’s a number that could diminish even further with the proper education from an early age, through programs such as this.

While teaching vehicle safety to children is important, it’s also imperative that parents are aware of child seat safety rules and adhere to them until their children are old enough to go without a booster seat. Programs like Buckle Up for Life, organized by Toyota and Cincinnati Children’s help educate parents on the importance of car seats, and their proper installation and use.

Thus far, Safety City has helped more than 2,000 children every year. If you’re in Lexington and want to take advantage of this free program, you can make an appointment by visiting EKU’s website.