What can we do to improve road safety for children and adolescents?
1.2 million die in road accidents each year. A child is killed in an accident every three minutes. Road safety is increasingly becoming a major killer and a worldwide concern, particularly for young people. What can we do to address the issue?
The media has been a largely overlooked factor in creating road safety awareness. Celebrity endorsements, coupled with television messages on prime-time slots and peer education programmes would provide an accessible and engaging means of promoting awareness, particularly among young people. They would convey the message that safe driving is “cool” driving, and constantly reinforce that drunken driving, using a cell phone on the road and driving without a seatbelt (or helmet) are not only dangerous, but “seriously unfashionable.” Celebrities could also actively encourage walking or cycling whenever and wherever possible.
Role-plays, “make-believe” situations, movies and field trips could be used as effective learning tools for children at school. Safe Road User awards at the school level would provide an incentive for many children to follow road safety rules. Road safety education programmes can also be extended to adults at the workplace, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This would hold particular importance for parents, and efforts must be made to involve them as much as possible.
Legislation and policies
There is a need for stricter licensing laws, particularly with regard to public transport operators. Laws could require prominent display of the driver’s license on his/her vehicle while driving, in addition to safety regulations (such as adequate maintenance and the use of the seatbelt) and random breath testing policies. Policies could provide for the creation of better roads and pavements, supervised playing areas for children and monitored crossings near schools.
Infrastructure and technology
Citizens must campaign for safer, wider roads and better sidewalks to limit accidents. Speed governors in each vehicle would provide a low-cost solution to speeding. There is also a need to provide well-maintained, safe and efficient public transport systems, particularly in developing nations. Fingerprint identification systems, similar to those in laptop computers, could be used in each vehicle, with each vehicle responding only to a programmed set of fingerprints.
For any effective change in the safety of our roads, however, we need to consciously change our attitudes towards providing safer roads- not just for ourselves or for young people, but for everyone.
First UN Global Road Safety Week (23 - 29 April 2007)
World Youth Assembly
As part of the activities for the “First UN Global Road Safety Week”, the World Health Organization and UNICEF invited children from all over the world to participate in a creative writing competition on the theme: What can be done to improve road safety for children and Young People?
The competition was for young people aged 10 to 24 years and evaluation criteria depended on the creative expression and how well the theme of the competition was expressed.
Sixteen year old Anupama Kumar from India won first prize and attended the World Youth Assembly to receive her award. As part of her prize, her essay will be published in the upcoming WHO/UNICEF World report on child and adolescent injury prevention. You can read more about this competition on the UNICEF Website. Winning Essay
Sheila Atieno, from Kenya, always tells her students to look both ways before crossing the street.
She understands the importance of carefully navigating roads. When she was 11, she lost a close friend. He was on his way to school when his life was taken by a speeding truck. So Atieno, now 26, decided that it was time to take action. She became a Coordinator of the African Region for YOURS, a global youth-led organization dedicated to road safety issues. She is also a leader of a group in Kenya called YOURS-K. Its mission is to “use all means possible to ensure that all road users arrive safely to their destinations.”
Road incidents are the number one cause of death for youth worldwide according to the UN Campaign for Global Road Safety. The economic cost of road accidents in developing countries is estimated to be at least $100 billion a year. Because of the staggering number of road accidents each year, this decade has been declared as the UN Decade of Action (2011-2020) for Road Safety. The UN has identified 10 reasons why road accidents are more dangerous than we think. According to the report, road accidents kill more people than malaria and 90% of casualties occur in developing countries.
The good news is that the number of deaths related to road accidents can be prevented and reduced. “All sectors of society need to be involved, government, private sector, and communities,” said Marc Sanford Shotten, Senior Transport Specialist at the World Bank. “Youth can take responsibility in their hands by becoming role models.”
Atieno is one those role models. She organizes workshops in Kenya to raise awareness about road safety. In December 2011, she organized The 3,000 Shoe Parade, a powerful illustration of the ramifications of road accidents. The group placed shoes along the parade path to help represent the 3,000 Kenyans killed every year in road crashes.
“The biggest challenge is trying to change their (youth’s) attitude on road safety,” said Nellie Ghusayni, YOURS Program Officer based in Lebanon. “Also, in low-and middle-income countries, young people don’t have cars; most of them walk to school and work. Pedestrian safety is a key issue.”
Pedestrian safety is the theme of the second UN Global Road Safety Week, which will be celebrated May 6-12, 2013. Organizations, governments and all interested in the issue are encouraged to plan national and local events to generation attention and action around pedestrian safety.
So what can you do to increase your road safety? YOURS has published the Youth and Road Safety Action Kit!, a toolkit meant to encourage and inform young people from around the world. The illustrations below, produced by YOURS, show some of the steps young people can take to be more visible to drivers and help prevent accidents.
Atieno believes that road accidents can be decreased drastically when the international community, local governments, and civil society come together and work with youth. “Youth are great advocates. They should ‘demand’ road safety laws in their communities, so they can go to school, and be safe. Youth can lobby and educate decision-makers and ask for road safety,” said Atieno.
What can you do in your community to raise awareness on road safety? Have you had any experiences like Sheila Atieno had? We want to hear your ideas, experiences, and the challenges you face when it comes to road safety. Share your comments below.
Learn more: Road Safety - Now is the time to learn from the past