Monday, June 8, 2015 12:00 AM

Teaching street smarts keeps kids safe

More than 3,000 first-graders from local schools crowded the sidewalks of a scaled down city scene to practice looking both ways and yelling at imaginary, distracted drivers during safety lessons sponsored by Community Regional Medical Center.

The hospital brought the interactive LA Street Smarts exhibit to the 10th annual May Day Summer Safety Fair to help reduce pedestrian accidents – the second leading cause of serious injury for children brought to the emergency room last year.

As the only Level 1 trauma center in a 15,000-square-mile region, which sees an average of 800 pediatric trauma cases a year, Community Regional is keenly interested in educating families on how to keep children out of the emergency room, said Eliana Troncale, the hospital’s injury prevention outreach specialist. Community serves in a leadership role for Safe Kids Central California, a childhood injury prevention coalition with member agencies from Fresno and Madera counties.

“My job is to help keep people out of the hospital by teaching them to be safer,” said Troncale. She teamed with Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, which created LA Street Smarts, to teach the elementary students how to be smarter, more careful pedestrians.

Community has created a pedestrian safety video, but Troncale says “My goal would to have our own Street Smarts exhibit to take out to schools in the Valley. We see some distracted by their phones while walking and there’s lots of running into the streets without looking.”

The Street Smarts lessons included making sure to get eye contact with drivers before crossing streets, especially in places without stop lights or pedestrian crossing signals, and always asking an adult to retrieve balls or other playthings that go into the street. The first-graders also learned to stand on their tip toes, wave their hands up high, and yell “STOP!” if they see a car backing out toward them or not slowing down as it nears a cross walk.

This year’s May Day Safety fair, put on by Safe Kids Central California and Valley Children’s Healthcare at Chukchansi Park baseball stadium, featured lessons on water safety, the dangerous of household cleaning products and why you should always buckle up in the car. Community’s Leon S. Peters Burn Center teamed with PG&E to show kids what can happen when you get too close to electric power lines.

Reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at