Over 1.24 million people die and between 20 and 50 million are injured on the world’s roads annually. The largest portion of this burden is borne by those living in low and middle income countries. In Kenya, over 3000 people die annually on the roads and nearly double that are injured. A large number of these consist of a particularly vulnerable group, children. Most roads are unsafe and unattractive for pedestrians, especially for children.
Many children living in informal areas have to walk to school on a daily basis which entails crossing highways or busy arterial roads. A good example are children from Mathare Valley in Nairobi, who have to cross the very busy and dangerous Juja Road. Last year no less than 10 school children were involved in fatal accidents on the same road!
The road design process has neglected the importance of safe movement of pedestrians and particularly of children around schools, playgrounds and hospitals. During the construction of the Thika Superhighway, pedestrian crossings were only constructed as an afterthought following several pedestrian deaths.
Some educational institutions have implemented measures aimed at making the roads around their institutions safer for their students. The University of Nairobi has a subway under the busy Uhuru Highway, Strathmore University constructed speed bumps on the public road that divides its campus while Starehe Boys Centre and Pangani Girls school (both divided by major roads) have overhead crossings. City authorities have also put up speed bumps near some primary schools.
According to the National Transport and Safety Authority, there were about 2900 recorded pedestrian accidents in 2014. Although reduced by 310 from 2013, the number is still high. As a result, the Kenyan parliament is working on passing an amendment to the Traffic Act that will see several changes in traffic and road management especially near schools.
The Highlights of the act include:
- Curb traffic speeds at 30 Kph near schools, playgrounds and hospitals in keeping with the global standard.
- Erection of traffic calming measures, pedestrian facilities and traffic signs near educational institutions.
- Set standards for vehicles and drivers transporting students (as there have been several tragedies in Kenya related to student transportation).
Although it sets fines for offenders, the Act does not specify whether those in charge of putting up signs, calming and other safety measures will face any form of disciplinary action in case of negligence.
Several countries have also made some strides towards ensuring the safety of children near playgrounds and schools. In New York City, there was a recent petition to install safety bumps after a school boy was killed while crossing the street at an intersection surrounded by schools. The Swedish Vision Zero approach states that it is not acceptable for fatal or serious injuries to occur on the road system, and that account must be taken of human tolerances when designing road infrastructure. These include roundabouts, barrier systems, pedestrian crossings, pedestrian footpaths, traffic calming, signalized intersections, shoulder sealing, and off-road cycle/motorcycle paths.
Besides the law, there are also other challenges that need to be examined other than the road users. These include but are not limited to
- Location of school entrances and playgrounds away from major highways.
- Grade separated pavements and walkways for children near all schools.
- Well designed, well placed bus-stops for school buses.
- Better monitoring of school bus drivers as their influence on the children in the immediate instance (safety) and long run (as drivers) plays a key factor in road education.
- More regular utilization of the children’s traffic park as an educational tool (other towns also require such a facility).
How much influence can a change in law have on children’s road safety ? What has your city done towards ensuring that children are safe on the road?
Credits: Images by Constant Cap and from http://nextstl.com Data linked to Sources.