Children in poorer countries that have fewer vehicles are more likely to die in traffic accidents, even as children walking to schools are disproportionately affected, according to the new Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report.
The report by UNESCO has highlighted measures taken by several countries to reduce accidents for children travelling to schools and also stressed upon the importance of traffic education for them, taking into account their attention and cognitive style using virtual reality technology.
“Traffic accidents rank at or near the top of the most significant dangers. Children walking to school are disproportionately affected because many schools are located along major highways, and children have more limited impulse control, slower reaction time and poorer risk perception than adults. Traffic is especially dangerous in poorer countries and neighbourhoods.
“Rapid, unplanned growth contributes to poor road conditions and inadequate urban traffic design, putting pedestrians and other vulnerable road users at risk, especially when combined with lack of stringent vehicle safety standards. Despite having far fewer vehicles, poorer countries have a far higher risk of accidents and fatal accidents,” it said.
The report cited an international road assessment programme survey of nearly 2,50,000 km of roads in 60 countries which found that more than 80 per cent of those with a traffic flow of over 40 km/hr and used by pedestrians had no pavements.
“Traffic education is important. The Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility, coordinated and funded by the FIA foundation, aims to ensure safe and healthy school journeys for all children by 2030. Within the SDG framework, it campaigns for speed limits, viable footpaths and cycle lanes.
“Finding a safe place to cross the road is more difficult for those with intellectual disability, as their ability to focus and ignore irrelevant stimuli is weaker. Road safety education should take into account their attention and cognitive style using virtual reality technology,” it added.
The GEM report called for systematic solutions and safe system approach.
“Systemic solutions are needed. The Safe System approach to traffic planning is a promising evidence-based initiative, pioneered in Sweden as vision Zero. It recognised that while human fallibility is inevitable, serious injuries and fatalities are not. Road system design should ensure that human error has no serious outcomes.
“The Republic of Korea reduced child traffic injuries by 95 pc from 1,766 in 1988 to 83 in 2012 using a comprehensive approach that combined safe school routes, road safety legislation and education, and measures such as free car seats for low-income households. Many successful initiatives and system designs are yet to be widely adopted,” it added.
In Kenya, the Global Road Safety Partnership and the WHO worked with the government to lower speed limits, reducing traffic injuries among students, the report highlighted.
“Thailand’s 7 pc Project coalition tackles the issue of the more than a million children who ride to school on their parents’ scooters, of whom only seven per cent wear helmets. Uruguay’s Safely Back to School campaign resulted in legislation requiring all school transport vehicles to have three-point, height-adjustable seat belts, which has become a reference for other latin American countries,” it said.