There’s a trick parents do to get their kids to eat vegetables: They add butter, sugar or any appetizing ingredients like bacon to make the green edibles more palatable. This, in essence, is what Volkswagen Philippines has done with its Child Safety Initiative program, a corporate social responsibility campaign that teaches road safety to children.
We always say Filipino drivers are the worst in the world. It’s the result of a lack of driver education, as well as many decades of corruption at the very government agency tasked to issue driving licenses. Obviously, it would be logistically impossible to try to send adult motorists back to driving schools. So various advocacy groups have called for the inclusion of a basic road safety course in the high school curriculum, though you have to wonder if hyperactive teenagers would pay attention to sleep-inducing instructors talking about road markings.
Volkswagen has done them one better. In April 2015, at the Manila International Auto Show, the German automaker introduced its CSI program, which immediately attracted youngsters and parents alike thanks to a “driving school” that looked like a fun play corner. But what seemed like a normal amusement activity for kids was actually a well-crafted lecture on safe motoring, like buttered and sweetened vegetables. Fathers and mothers didn’t have to force their kids to take the short course—their kids begged them for it.
The Junior Driving Course is specially designed for children aged four to eight years. It makes use of miniature simulated roads complete with toy vehicles and traffic signs. It teaches, for example, how to give way at an intersection, an elementary motoring courtesy that is lost on so many adults. When they finish the course, the young students are issued a “junior driver’s license.”
There’s also a complementary course called “Steps to Safety” for children aged nine to 12. This one tackles pedestrian safety, a subject nobody wants to discuss but is absolutely crucial to making our roads a lot less dangerous.
Imagine the psychological impact of these exercises on an impressionable mind. What Volkswagen has achieved here is conceive and execute an effective way to raise an entire generation of responsible drivers, commuters and pedestrians.
As you read this, Volkswagen Philippines has already conducted 46 CSI events. And on the weekend of November 4 and 5, at Ayala Malls The 30th, the program graduated its 10,000th participant. Think about this number. Best of all, the parents also learn just by watching over their young ones. While something as fundamental as the pedestrian crosswalk is routinely ignored by many grown-ups, it is treated with utmost sanctity inside the motoring playpen Volkswagen has created.
When you consider that an average of 34 Filipinos get killed on the road every single day, it’s comforting to know that one car company is doing a thankless job educating future motorists. Sure, there’s branding and there’s marketing somewhere in there—Volkswagen is still a business after all—but a CSR program like this is always more commendable than the sorry use of paid influencers who just call attention to themselves.
So thank you, Volkswagen Philippines, for pulling off what our government cannot.