You’re never too young for a lesson on staying safer around streets and cars — or too old for a refresher. Safetyville USA makes those lessons extra fun.
It looks like a normal town — with crosswalks, traffic lights, a fire department, a pizza restaurant and even a grocery store. But there’s something just a little unusual here: Everything is one-third the size, more on the scale of an elementary schooler than an adult. Plus, while it’s still crucial to look both ways first, crossing the roads here comes without any risk of real cars or trucks passing.
This is Safetyville USA, part of Safety Center in Sacramento, California. The cute miniature town, which dates back to 1984, plays host to lessons for everyone from preschoolers to young teens, covering topics like how to safely use a crosswalk, how to navigate intersections and more.
That focus on safety helps give confidence to kids and their parents, just as OnStar* has worked for more than 25 years to bring added peace of mind to Members. That’s why we stopped by Safetyville to see what children and adults know about safety. Watch below as our hosts, Tucker and Carter, take us on a tour of Safetyville, and then keep reading to learn how you can find similar opportunities for your own children.
Despite the fun appearances, there are serious lessons taking place here. “Safetyville is a place where kids are learning to make positive decisions,” says Jenny Mensch, community programs manager at Safety Center.
“When kids are actually acting out those safety skills, that gives them the practice and it helps make it real to them,” she says. “It helps them feel more empowered because they’ve practiced them time and time again.”
Though Safetyville’s programs have been curtailed the past couple of years due to the pandemic, Mensch says the location typically has welcomed around 12,000 visitors annually through community events, birthday parties and school field trips.
Lessons are tailored to different age ranges: The youngest kids may learn how to dial 911 in an emergency, while middle schoolers practice safely riding a bike to get to school, and teens can work on more advanced skills in Safetyville’s pedal cars.
Of course, that’s not to say adults can’t learn a thing or two. That can be because kids go home and share what they learned with mom and dad, or because parents pick up on lessons when they attend alongside their little ones.
“Sometimes the things that we teach the kids influence their parents as well,” says Gail Kelly, Safety Center’s senior vice president of programs. “There are so many things they [adults] just do intuitively because they’ve done it for years that they don’t realize sometimes how complex all the safety skills are that we’re teaching children.”
Though groups have traveled to Safetyville from all over California — and even, memorably, from South Korea in 1997, according to Kelly — you can likely find a similar program far closer to home. Many school districts, as well as local police and fire departments, host “Safety Town” events for kids. Typically offered in late spring or early summer once school gets out, they’re a great opportunity to help your child build the skills they need to stay safer when walking, crossing streets and more.
And, hey, you may even learn something new or get a refresher on some rules of the road that you might have forgotten since you last took a class like this.
“I’m a big believer in safety, and I think what we’re teaching are lifelong skills,” Kelly says, summing up Safetyville’s goals. “The more we can build those values and build those beliefs at a young age for parents and kids, it’s really going to have an exponential impact on our communities and safety going forward.”