- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2000

Taking care of one's health involves more than seeing a doctor every year. Staying healthy on the road is no easy task, considering that every 30 seconds someone dies in an alcohol-related car crash and three of four automobile accidents occur within 25 miles of one's home.
Well, leave it to two crash-test dummies, Vince and Larry, who work for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to provide the latest tips to stay safe on the road be it riding a bicycle, walking or getting behind the wheel of a car.

Vince & Larry's Safety City

Site address: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/kids

Creator:

The NHTSA, an agency of the Transportation Department, based in the District, released the site about four years ago.

Creator quotable:

"We created this site to help interest kids in safety and teach them about safety issues. We've had parents call us in the past with questions their kids have asked," says Pat Donahue, NHTSA webmaster.

Word from the Webwise:

Safety City engages children in learning through colorful illustrations, comic-booklike text and multiple avenues of exploration. The site bombards users with safety messages culled from the work of engineers, researchers and scientists.
A large map greets visitors and tempts them to enter the primary sections: "Safety School," "Larry's Art Gallery," "Theater," "Bike Tour," "School Bus," "Research Laboratory," "EMS" and "Town Hall."
A changing safety message lies directly below the map, with advice such as "Stop and look left, then right, then left again for moving cars, before stepping into the street."
A quick click on "Town Hall" began my adventure with a look at the man who invented the traffic light in 1923, Garrett Augustus Morgan. Considered the "father of transportation safety technology," Morgan developed his invention after witnessing an accident between an automobile and horse-drawn carriage. Sounds like a great idea for a school report to me.
The "Bike Tour" section presents several areas of information on biking gear and clothing to helmets and points of danger while cycling. Information on pedestrian safety can also be found here.
With school back in session, parents should encourage their children to check out the "Bus Safety" section for a full set of tips on staying safe along with the 23 million other bus-riding students around the country.
Look for lifesaving advice when dealing with automobiles under the "Research Center." Here, visitors will find information on seat belts, car seats, air bags and crash tests with a special area devoted to drinking and driving. The "EMS" (emergency medical services) section also can save a life with its well-rounded advice on how to deal with a crisis.
Of course, an obligatory quiz, "Safety Challenge" under "Safety School," reinforces the tips found throughout Safety City.
If a child enters his first name and age, the quiz score can be posted under the "High Score Hall of Fame."
A final place to stop and get away from the avalanche of advice is "Larry's Art Gallery," which features an on-line creation area. Visitors can magically color pages featuring their two favorite dummies. Finished masterpieces can then be sent by e-mail to a buddy.

Ease of use:

A cartoonlike road map resides on the side of every page to take children throughout the site, and a helpful "Garage" gives visitors any plug-ins needed to view the site. With the number of art elements on the pages, I was impressed by how quickly everything loaded with my antiquated 28.8k connection.
Now, the bad news. The link to view a "Back to School Supplies," section did not work, and I was disappointed that the "Theater" had a "We are updating our site" message on it.

Family activity:

The whole clan can join in a game of "Traffic Safety Jeopardy," found under the "Teachers Lounge" in the "Safe School" section. Complete instructions and a list of materials needed to create a challenge based on the popular TV game show are included. Educators should check out this area for other games and downloadable coloring books for their students.

Don't miss:

The demolition derby fan in the family will appreciate the crash test video vault in which visitors see how Vince and Larry earn a paycheck. Using slow-loading (about 10 minutes to 20 minutes per clip at a 38.8k connection) video clips, check out a wide range of automobile test crashes. Each clip lasts about seven seconds and includes popular models such as the Buick Century, Hyundai Scoupe, Isuzu Rodeo and the Ford Windstar.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

This nicely illustrated, self-contained site should keep middle-school youngsters sufficiently entertained as they learn plenty about road safety.
Family fun factor: 85 percent

Overall grade: B (get those links working)

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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