Briana Llamas stopped, looked and listened before crossing the streets of a miniature city set up on the playground Thursday at Pacoima Elementary School.
The third-grader and hundreds of her classmates walked through the display -- complete with buildings, houses, streets, crosswalks and vehicles -- making sure to carefully observe stop signs, traffic signals and railroad crossings.
The temporary display is the centerpiece of "KIDSTEPS! to Pedestrian Safety," an ongoing Los Angeles Department of Transportation program designed to teach children such as Briana how to cross streets safely.
For the first time this year, the program incorporates crossing guards into the safety lesson, said Pat Hines, executive director of Safe Moves Inc., a nonprofit organization that contracts with Los Angeles to provide the virtual city and safety demonstrations.
"What we were finding was that kids were ignoring the crossing guards, especially the older ones, and younger ones mimic their attitudes," she said, adding that this year's program emphasizes a positive relationship between children and guards.
An estimated 6,200 pedestrians under age 16 have been injured in traffic accidents citywide since 1994, transportation officials said. By teaching children to watch for cars, pay attention to crossing guards and observe traffic signals, officials hope to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities.
Wayne K. Tanda, Department of Transportation general manager, told the children gathered on the playground that, even if every safety device were installed on city streets to ensure their safety, they still need to be careful.
"Unfortunately, there will be motorists who will get distracted, go too fast and hit you, unless you are smarter than they are," he said. "Learn to be aware and learn to be cautious while you are still young, because you don't get too many chances to make a mistake in L.A. traffic."
As the children walked through the miniature city, Safe Moves guides instructed them to stop, look and listen before crossing the street; watch for cars backing out of driveways, and make eye contact with drivers before stepping off the curb.
At the end of the tour, 9-year-old Briana said she learned a few things: "Everyone has to stop for stop signs, not just cars. And watch out for trains."
The program, funded through a $95,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, has staged 44 similar safety events since July 2000.