“Infrastructure and education can save thousands of children’s lives,” says the South African Road Federation (SARF). Around 186 300 children under the age of 18 years die from road traffic crashes around the world each year. Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among those aged 15-19 years, the second leading cause of death for those aged 5-15 years, and the fourth leading cause of death among young people aged five to nine years. Millions more children are injured each year and require hospital care for non-fatal injuries as a result of road traffic crashes. Furthermore, rates of road traffic death are three times higher in developing countries than in developed countries. This is according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is facilitating the UN Global Road Safety Week, together with the United Nations regional commissions. The Global Road Safety Week is currently underway in Sydney, Australia, from 4–10 May 2015 under the theme ‘Children and road safety’. The South African Road Federation (SARF) is a participant in support of the UN Global Road Safety Week 2015, and is currently sharing local experiences with global participants at this event. “SARF is dedicated to the promotion of the road industry and road safety in South Africa by dissemination of information, the promotion of sound policies and by education and training,” says Hilton Vorster, Chairman of the South African Road Federation Road Safety Committee. “The main (non-natural) killer of children in South Africa is road traffic crashes. The majority of these are pedestrians and secondly passengers, who are not adequately restrained,” he adds. This year’s Global Road Safety Week seeks to highlight the plight of children on the world’s roads, generate action to better ensure their safety, and promote the inclusion of safe and sustainable transport. At the centre of this event is a child declaration, developed with input from children around the world through the #SaveKidsLives Campaign. Through this declaration, children stated that there is no reason why thousands of innocent children should be killed and injured on the world’s road every single day. They stated that not enough is being done, and that the world’s leaders need to listen and act. In terms of infrastructure, the declaration indicated that all children deserve a safe journey to and from school without the fear of injury or death. Roads must be made safer to allow children to walk to school. This includes the development of safe foot-paths and cycle-paths, safe crossing areas and traffic calming measures. “It is essential that the relevant authorities respond to this plea by providing safe infrastructure for children to ensure a safe journey to and from school. This includes the provision of adequate walkways, raised pedestrian crossings, pedestrian bridges and crossings,” says Vorster. “The implementation of this infrastructure should then be followed by ongoing education to learners, parents and educators on how to correctly use this infrastructure,” he added. “If we can achieve this from an engineering and educational point of view we will contribute greatly to the reduction in child fatalities and serious injury,” concluded Vorster.
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