In Helsinki, Finland, children from kindergarten to 13 years old can earn a “driver’s license.” It doesn’t permit them to drive on highways, of course, but only on the street of Children’s Traffic Town. In this town the same laws are enforced as on the country’s highways.
Children’s Traffic Town, founded in 1958, is an arrangement of streets in miniature about 110 meters by 50 meters. Designed in a figure-eight pattern, it has crossroads, crosswalks, traffic lights, and one major intersection. Policemen direct the constant traffic parade of pedestrians, bicycles, and small pedal cars.
The cars were contributed by generous manufacturers and Talja, the organization concerned with traffic safety in Finland. The City of Helsinki donated the land and storage building and built the roads.
Children’s Traffic Town can accommodate 700 to 800 children a day. Classes are conducted from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. between September and May, when school is in session. During the summer school vacation, children can come for practice driving. Instructors are city policemen, usually young constables, who receive special training for the job. Only after the children can correctly answer the questions on traffic patterns and problems are they allowed to drive. Then each child has about 45 minutes behind the wheel per visit. Total driving time at the school must be at least 2 hours before the youngster receives a license.
Older boys and girls can become assistant policemen and help direct the traffic at Traffic Town.
The Helsinki traffic school has been so successful that more schools have been started throughout the country and others are being planned.