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
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.