Legislation

IS SCHOOL TRANSPORT KILLING OUR CHILDREN?

IS SCHOOL TRANSPORT KILLING OUR CHILDREN?

Youth Month is an appropriate time to reflect on the way South Africa works to keep its children safe. History should always teach us to do better, especially regarding our children. When it comes to education, many barriers exist for many children in South Africa. Unfortunately, safety and school transport are among them.

 

To ensure the safety of child passengers, Wheel Well is focused on road safety for children. But, the regulations surrounding school transport in South Africa are unclear. This makes it challenging to guarantee the safety of school children. We need to discuss these regulations and address the existing gaps.

CHILD SAFETY ON SOUTH AFRICAN ROADS

 

According to Child Gauge 2019, a publication released by the University of Cape Town, South Africa has a high rate of child injury deaths. In high-income countries, the global annual child-injury mortality rate is 8.6 per 100,00. By comparison, in South Africa, the rate is 38.9 per 100,000 for children 19 years and younger. Of these, 36% are the result of road traffic injuries. That means that it is the leading cause of child mortality in South Africa. Children aged 6-12 years are particularly vulnerable on our roads, as passengers and pedestrians.

 

The publication found that 68% of South African learners walk to school and that one in five pedestrian deaths are children under the age of 15 years.

 

THE BLACKHEATH TRAIN CRASH

 

An historical tragedy that should be a call for change, occurred in 2010 when the Blackheath train incident shook the nation. A minibus carrying school children cut in front of other vehicles and drove in front of a train. Ten children were killed in this horrific crash which scarred the community. The driver was found guilty of 10 counts of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, his sentence was reduced to 8 years. While the driver may have been held accountable to some extent, this was a preventable tragedy. The lives of ten families and their communities remain irreparably changed.

 

A proposed bridge was planned to improve the safety of this crossing following the deaths of these children. Unfortunately, the bridge failed to materialise. In 2018, another crash involving a bakkie driving in front of a train killed 5 people. Two crashes at the same crossing show an attitude of apathy when it comes to changes for road safety.

 

In tragedies like these, the reason of “human error” falls flat, however, if we view the circumstances that allow for this excuse to surface, the question arises “How do we prevent this?”.

 

REGULATION 231

 

Before we look at the factors that would improve the safety of school children on our roads, we need to talk about Regulation 231 of the National Traffic Act, 1996. It states:

 

  1. Manner in which children to be counted for purposes of regulations

1) For the purposes of establishing the number of persons that may in terms of these regulations,

other than regulation 263, be carried on any vehicle, other than a motorcycle, motor tricycle,

motor quadricycle or pedal cycle –

  1. a) any child under the age of three years shall not be counted;
  2. b) two children of three years or over but under the age of six years shall be counted as one

person; and

  1. c) three children of six years or over but under the age of 13 years shall be counted as two persons:

Provided that in applying the provisions of this regulation, fractions shall be disregarded.

 

When loading a vehicle, the total mass of passengers is considered. This logic determines that because children are smaller than adults, 2-3 children (depending on age group) makeup one adult when counting the allowed number of passengers for that vehicle.

 

Child safety becomes a concern when following this logic. Counting many children as single people ignores the fact that most vehicles do not safely cater for this. For example, this means that there are not enough restraints in a vehicle to cater to every child.

 

Overloaded vehicles already pose a huge safety risk for all its occupants. This issue is compounded when children are not counted as a single person but rather several. Cape Talk spoke to the father of a 7-year-old boy, Liyabonga Mbaba, who had died by decapitation in a crash involving an overloaded taxi. The harrowing interview can be heard here, although we would like to add a trigger warning for the graphic description of the crash.

 

THE NEED FOR SAFE SCHOOL TRANSPORT

 

There is a great need for safe and reliable school transport for children in South Africa. With the majority of children having to walk to school, they are already vulnerable to many risks. A great number also rely on public transport to receive their education. Without standardised and enforced school transport regulations, children who rely on these services are at the highest risk of injury and death.

 

The Department of Transportation has attempted to address this problem in their National Learner Transport 2015, which was revised in March 2023. Yet, while this policy addresses some of the challenges of school transport, there is not enough being done. Underfunding is one of their stated reasons for this.

 

As a nation, this should be a priority for ourselves as taxpayers. We are stakeholders in the future of our children, especially regarding their education and safety. Children should not have to risk dying to receive their education.

 

WHAT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED

 

Several factors need to be improved. Firstly, Regulation 231 needs to be updated to count every child in a vehicle, regardless of age, as one person. This would aid in catering to the safety requirements of every person in a vehicle.

 

Every school district should have a subsidised school transport program that caters to the safety of children. This is especially necessary for schools that have a high number of children who walk to school.

Vehicles utilised should have child safety in mind. In the United States of America, the yellow school bus is a widely recognised vehicle, even throughout the rest of the world. Transporting 26 million children each year, school buses are the largest mode of public transport in the US. With their high visibility, large size, lower centre of gravity and strong rules for navigating the roads around them, fatal crashes involving school buses are incredibly rare. We know it may be unrealistic to compare the experiences of high- and low-income countries. However, this shows that the use of vehicles designed to carry children can reduce the risk of child fatalities. We also need clearer regulations on what determines a vehicle fit for carrying school children.

 

When we send our children to school, we entrust their safety to other adults. Any person tasked with transporting children must have specific permits and training to do so. Training should centre around the care of children. First-aid certification should also be mandatory. Drivers should also be vetted to ensure that they have no prior record of harm against children.

 

Safe school transport can play a huge role in ensuring that fewer children die from preventable road fatalities. However, those with the power to enact changes that would save children from the largest cause of death in our country, do not seem rushed to do so. Especially considering the severity of this problem. Having a standardised and enforced national school transport policy will help in the assignment of roles and accountability for school transport. It will also set safety standards to which all parties must comply with.

 

Parents can also appeal to their school governing board, headmaster and local metro police. These different entities must work together to ensure learners’ safety to and from school.

For child pedestrians, schools can organise a Walking Bus program. This involves community volunteers walking children in a group to and from school. This helps to ensure they are safe and more visible to road users.

 

Let’s put the pressure on the Departments of Education and Transport, as well as our schools so that history does not keep repeating itself with more preventable deaths of our kids.

Youth Month is an appropriate time to reflect on the way South Africa works to keep its children safe. History should always teach us to do better, especially regarding our children. When it comes to education, many barriers exist for many children in South Africa. Unfortunately, safety and school transport are among them.

To ensure the safety of child passengers, Wheel Well is focused on road safety for children. But, the regulations surrounding school transport in South Africa are unclear. This makes it challenging to guarantee the safety of school children. We need to discuss these regulations and address the existing gaps.

CHILD SAFETY ON SOUTH AFRICAN ROADS

According to Child Gauge 2019, a publication released by the University of Cape Town, South Africa has a high rate of child injury deaths. In high-income countries, the global annual child-injury mortality rate is 8.6 per 100,00. By comparison, in South Africa, the rate is 38.9 per 100,000 for children 19 years and younger. Of these, 36% are the result of road traffic injuries. That means that it is the leading cause of child mortality in South Africa. Children aged 6-12 years are particularly vulnerable on our roads, as passengers and pedestrians.

The publication found that 68% of South African learners walk to school and that one in five pedestrian deaths are children under the age of 15 years.

THE BLACKHEATH TRAIN CRASH

 

An historical tragedy that should be a call for change, occurred in 2010 when the Blackheath train incident shook the nation. A minibus carrying school children cut in front of other vehicles and drove in front of a train. Ten children were killed in this horrific crash which scarred the community. The driver was found guilty of 10 counts of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, his sentence was reduced to 8 years. While the driver may have been held accountable to some extent, this was a preventable tragedy. The lives of ten families and their communities remain irreparably changed.

A proposed bridge was planned to improve the safety of this crossing following the deaths of these children. Unfortunately, the bridge failed to materialise. In 2018, another crash involving a bakkie driving in front of a train killed 5 people. Two crashes at the same crossing show an attitude of apathy when it comes to changes for road safety.

In tragedies like these, the reason of “human error” falls flat, however, if we view the circumstances that allow for this excuse to surface, the question arises “How do we prevent this?”.

REGULATION 231

 

Before we look at the factors that would improve the safety of school children on our roads, we need to talk about Regulation 231 of the National Traffic Act, 1996. It states:

  1. Manner in which children to be counted for purposes of regulations

1) For the purposes of establishing the number of persons that may in terms of these regulations,

other than regulation 263, be carried on any vehicle, other than a motorcycle, motor tricycle,

motor quadricycle or pedal cycle –

  1. a) any child under the age of three years shall not be counted;
  2. b) two children of three years or over but under the age of six years shall be counted as one

person; and

  1. c) three children of six years or over but under the age of 13 years shall be counted as two persons:

Provided that in applying the provisions of this regulation, fractions shall be disregarded.

 

When loading a vehicle, the total mass of passengers is considered. This logic determines that because children are smaller than adults, 2-3 children (depending on age group) makeup one adult when counting the allowed number of passengers for that vehicle.

Child safety becomes a concern when following this logic. Counting many children as single people ignores the fact that most vehicles do not safely cater for this. For example, this means that there are not enough restraints in a vehicle to cater to every child.

Overloaded vehicles already pose a huge safety risk for all its occupants. This issue is compounded when children are not counted as a single person but rather several. Cape Talk spoke to the father of a 7-year-old boy, Liyabonga Mbaba, who had died by decapitation in a crash involving an overloaded taxi. The harrowing interview can be heard here, although we would like to add a trigger warning for the graphic description of the crash.

THE NEED FOR SAFE SCHOOL TRANSPORT

 

There is a great need for safe and reliable school transport for children in South Africa. With the majority of children having to walk to school, they are already vulnerable to many risks. A great number also rely on public transport to receive their education. Without standardised and enforced school transport regulations, children who rely on these services are at the highest risk of injury and death.

The Department of Transportation has attempted to address this problem in their National Learner Transport 2015, which was revised in March 2023. Yet, while this policy addresses some of the challenges of school transport, there is not enough being done. Underfunding is one of their stated reasons for this.

As a nation, this should be a priority for ourselves as taxpayers. We are stakeholders in the future of our children, especially regarding their education and safety. Children should not have to risk dying to receive their education.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED

 

Several factors need to be improved. Firstly, Regulation 231 needs to be updated to count every child in a vehicle, regardless of age, as one person. This would aid in catering to the safety requirements of every person in a vehicle.

Every school district should have a subsidised school transport program that caters to the safety of children. This is especially necessary for schools that have a high number of children who walk to school.

Vehicles utilised should have child safety in mind. In the United States of America, the yellow school bus is a widely recognised vehicle, even throughout the rest of the world. Transporting 26 million children each year, school buses are the largest mode of public transport in the US. With their high visibility, large size, lower centre of gravity and strong rules for navigating the roads around them, fatal crashes involving school buses are incredibly rare. We know it may be unrealistic to compare the experiences of high- and low-income countries. However, this shows that the use of vehicles designed to carry children can reduce the risk of child fatalities. We also need clearer regulations on what determines a vehicle fit for carrying school children.

When we send our children to school, we entrust their safety to other adults. Any person tasked with transporting children must have specific permits and training to do so. Training should centre around the care of children. First-aid certification should also be mandatory. Drivers should also be vetted to ensure that they have no prior record of harm against children.

Safe school transport can play a huge role in ensuring that fewer children die from preventable road fatalities. However, those with the power to enact changes that would save children from the largest cause of death in our country, do not seem rushed to do so. Especially considering the severity of this problem. Having a standardised and enforced national school transport policy will help in the assignment of roles and accountability for school transport. It will also set safety standards to which all parties must comply with.

Parents can also appeal to their school governing board, headmaster and local metro police. These different entities must work together to ensure learners’ safety to and from school.

For child pedestrians, schools can organise a Walking Bus program. This involves community volunteers walking children in a group to and from school. This helps to ensure they are safe and more visible to road users.

Let’s put the pressure on the Departments of Education and Transport, as well as our schools so that history does not keep repeating itself with more preventable deaths of our kids.

IS SCHOOL TRANSPORT KILLING OUR CHILDREN? Read More »

BACK TO SCHOOL 2024: ROAD SAFETY FOR OUR CHILDREN

BACK TO SCHOOL 2024: ROAD SAFETY FOR OUR CHILDREN

BACK TO SCHOOL 2024: ROAD SAFETY FOR OUR CHILDREN

BACK TO SCHOOL 2024: ROAD SAFETY FOR OUR CHILDREN
BACK TO SCHOOL 2024: ROAD SAFETY FOR OUR CHILDREN

As the holidays draw to a close, our children are heading back to school. Whether you have young or older children, it is a time of excitement, trepidation, enthusiasm and, for some, despair at the end of the long holidays – feelings often shared by parents too. One hope for our children we all have as they start the school year is that they will be safe.

Alongside ABCs & 123s, teaching your children road safety is as important. It is important that we, as adults, uphold road safety standards to make the road safe for all users, especially our children.

DRIVING SAFELY AROUND SCHOOL ZONES

Areas around schools will often become congested during drop-off and pick-up times. If you are not dropping children off at school, consider changing your route to minimise the impact on traffic.
If you are dropping off children, or your commute takes you through a school zone during peak times, here are some things to keep in mind:

● Do not drive more than 30km/h. Even if there is no signage indicating the speed limit, 30km/h should be your default speed when driving in a school zone. Children have impulsive and unpredictable behaviour. They may not have developed a good sense of road awareness. Slowing your driving allows you time to react should a child step in front of your vehicle.

● Do not use your mobile phone or play loud music while passing a school. Keep distractions few and awareness high.

● Children, especially the younger ones, are not easily visible due to their height. Primary school children are sometimes no taller than the bonnet of a car and thus are at risk of drivers not seeing them. Always take extra care to note the areas around your car when driving in a school zone. Be on the lookout for children walking or cycling to school, as well as crossing the road.

● If you encounter a crossing guard (aka “lollipop man/woman”) or scholar patrol, obey their signals and stop to let children cross the road. Be patient and avoid becoming frustrated. Hooting your vehicle may startle children which may cause them to step into traffic.

● During the first week of school, remember many young children are starting “Big School”. Parents might take longer to say goodbye to their children, who may be anxious and doubtful. Have patience with them – this is a big step into the next stage of life for many children (and their parents).

SAFETY FOR CHILDREN GETTING TO SCHOOL BY CAR

If you are dropping your kids off at school yourself, it is a good opportunity to reinforce some important road safety rules.

● Always buckle up! This is rule number one. This rule applies to the driver as well as the child passengers. Children learn by example. It is our role as parents and caregivers to be a good example for them. Make use of seatbelts, car seats and harnesses on every journey, no matter how short or familiar the route.

● Car seats are mandatory up until the age of 3. Beyond this, car seats are the safest option for your child in a vehicle up until your child reaches age 10. Seat belts are designed around adult bodies and sizes, therefore a car seat is that much better at restraining a child. Your child’s car seat must be suitable for their age, height, weight and developmental stage. You can find more information on which is the right car seat for your child here.

● A factor you may have to contend with is your child becoming embarrassed about using a car seat. Unfortunately, we have little control over the safety standards set by other parents. Starting school leads to some children wanting to set themselves apart from “babies” and prove they are “big” now. This results in the rejection of anything that they perceive as being “for babies”. There may be teasing of children who are still making use of those things – car seats included.
We have spoken in the past about how to engage your child in learning how to be safe in a vehicle and on the road, including why it is important to use a car seat. If they are beginning to feel a sense of shame associated with their car seat, a better approach for older children is to teach them that “big kids make responsible choices”. This will give them a sense of empowerment in that they are not using a car seat because they are a “little kid”, but because it is the responsible and safe thing to do. And big kids do responsible things, even if they don’t like it and even if their friends do otherwise.

● Carpooling is a good way to lessen congested traffic in school zones. It is important to discuss with all parents involved the safety standards to maintain in their vehicles. Everyone should be on the same page. Each child should at the very least have access to a seat belt. A Secure-A-Kid Safety Harness is a worthwhile investment, as it is easy to use, attaches to most seat belts and is easily packed away in a school bag. This makes it an excellent choice for carpool groups.

● Always have your children climb out of the car on the pavement side of your vehicle. If this is not possible, always look for oncoming vehicles before opening the car door and assist them with getting to the pavement. Have them go quickly and directly to the schoolyard away from the drop-off zone.

● Plan where they should wait at the pick-up zone after school that is away from traffic.

SCHOOL BUS & MINIBUS SAFETY

Public transport has its pitfalls when it comes to road safety, leaving a lot of room for improvement. For many families, it is the only viable option available. There are a few things families can do to improve the safety of the experience for their children:

● It is best to try and make use of a transport company that only carries students or is hired by the school. These companies are more likely to have the safety of children in mind. If this is not an option for your child, have an adult travel with them or else watch that they make use of a bus or minibus that is safe for their journey.

● Never leave children alone at a bus stop. An adult must wait with them until they board.

● Children should not wander away from the bus stop. Not only do they risk missing their transport, but they might find themselves in dangerous situations.

● Teach your children that they should always stand 3 metres away from a bus until instructed to board. Buses have many blind spots and can also obstruct the view of children for other drivers on the road. Due to the height of a bus, a driver is also unable to see directly in front or behind the bus – never stand in these areas!

● Children must remain seated for the duration of their journey. They should only leave their seats to disembark when the driver says it is safe to do so.

WALKING & CYCLING TO SCHOOL

If you live close to your child’s school, cycling or walking may be an option for them. It can be a great source of exercise and outside enrichment as part of their day. Be informed about the safety of this option in your area before considering this option.

● Children who are walking or cycling must wear high-visibility clothing. Drivers may not see child pedestrians and cyclists, especially in low-light conditions. High-visibility reflective clothing – a vest or beanie, for example – will make them more noticeable. This allows drivers to safely navigate and anticipate their movements.

● Cyclists must wear helmets at all times during their journey. This is a requirement by law but also reduces the risk of death and serious injury. A cycling helmet must be the appropriate size. Straps should be secure and snug, not allowing the helmet to shift.

● Children walking to school should stay on the pavement away from traffic – never walk on the road. Cyclists should stay as close to the pavement as possible and make use of a cycling lane if one is available.

● If other children in your neighbourhood also walk or cycle to school, arrange with their parents for them to journey together. Children are safer in a group than walking or cycling alone.

● It is very important to teach child pedestrians and cyclists how to cross roads. They must look right and left before crossing and never cross on a blind corner where they cannot see an oncoming vehicle. Show them where they can make use of pedestrian crossings on their route.

● Stress to your child that they must walk or cycle directly to and from school without any detours. Have them be home by a certain time so that you can be sure that they are safe.

● For cyclists, find out where the school’s designated bike racks are. Teach them how to use a bike lock to keep their bicycle from being stolen.

GENERAL SAFETY TIPS

● Have children carry “In Case of Emergency” details on them, especially if taking public transport/walking/cycling. Do not put their name in these details which can be used by strangers and traffickers to lure them away from safety.

● Teach your children not to talk to strangers or get into unfamiliar cars.

● Talk to your children about road safety rules and reinforce them. Consistent repetition is key!

● Don’t let children wear headphones/use cellphones while travelling to/from school. These can be a distraction that can cause them to step in front of vehicles or wander off from a safe area.

● Organise with the school or PTA to have a Parent or Student Patrol around the school during peak times to help children cross the roads.

Let’s keep our learners safe this year, starting with road safety. Wheel Well provides school talks on road safety for students at primary school and high school levels. If you would be interested in having us visit your child’s school, speak to the school’s organising committee or get in touch with us. The safety of all children on our roads is our #1 goal!

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The Perils of Driving with Your Baby on Your Lap: A Risky Choice

The Perils of Driving with Your Baby on Your Lap: A Risky Choice.

The Perils of Driving with Your Baby on Your Lap: A Risky Choice.

The Perils of Driving with Your Baby on Your Lap: A Risky Choice
The Perils of Driving with Your Baby on Your Lap: A Risky Choice

The bond between a parent and their child is undeniably strong, and it’s natural for parents to want to keep their little ones close. However, when it comes to driving, the safety of both the parent and the child should always be the top priority. Unfortunately, some parents still choose to drive with their baby on their lap, unaware of the significant dangers associated with this practice. In this blog, we will explore the risks and consequences of driving with a baby on your lap and emphasize the importance of proper child restraint systems.

Lack of Restraint:

One of the most apparent dangers of driving with a baby on your lap is the absence of any form of restraint. In the event of a sudden stop or a collision, an unrestrained child becomes a projectile within the vehicle, putting them at an extremely high risk of injury. Even at low speeds, the force generated during a crash can lead to severe consequences for both the adult and the child.

Airbag Risks:

Modern vehicles are equipped with airbags designed to provide additional protection in the event of a crash. However, these safety features can become deadly when a child is seated on an adult’s lap. Airbags deploy with tremendous force, and their impact can cause serious injuries, especially to infants and small children. Placing a child on your lap puts them directly in the path of the deploying airbag, increasing the likelihood of severe harm.

Collision Forces:

In a collision, the forces exerted on an unrestrained child are immense. The weight that the child takes on is equal to their weight multiplied by the speed before impact. For example, if a child weighs 10 kgs and you were traveling at 60 km/h, the child takes on the weight of 600 kgs during the collision. It’s crucial to understand that there’s no way to hold onto them securely during such a forceful impact.

Legal Consequences:

Apart from the obvious safety risks, driving with a baby on your lap may also have legal repercussions. In South Africa it is law that all children under 3 are restrained in a suitable car seat, and that children between 3 and 12 years must be restrained in a suitable car seat if one is available otherwise, they must be restrained on the back seat. Driving without securing your child in an appropriate restraint system can result in fines.

The dangers of driving with a baby on your lap are clear and should never be underestimated. The potential for serious injuries and even fatalities is far too great to ignore. It is crucial for parents to prioritize the safety of their children by using appropriate child restraint systems, such as rear-facing car seats, forward facing car seats, booster seats, and seat belts, depending on the child’s age and size.

Ultimately, the responsibility of ensuring a child’s safety while driving falls on the shoulders of every parent or guardian. By understanding and acknowledging the risks associated with driving with a baby on your lap, we can collectively work towards creating a safer environment for our youngest passengers and fostering a culture of responsible parenting on the road.

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Children in Traffic

Ensuring Safety in School Transport: A Call for Accountability and Change.

Ensuring Safety in School Transport: A Call for Accountability and Change

Children in Traffic
Children boarding School Bus

School transport is an integral part of ensuring that our children have access to education and social interaction. However, it’s important to shed light on an often-overlooked aspect – the loading of these vehicles and the safety implications associated with it. Specifically, the regulations dictate the loading of children in vehicles. This post delves into this issue, the potential risks it poses, and calls for collective accountability and gradual regulatory change to prioritize the safety of our Children.

The Current Loading Regulations

As per the regulation 231 of the NRTA, the loading of a vehicle considers children under three as non-persons, children between three and six as two children count as one person, and children between six and thirteen, three children count as one person. This implies that a 13-seater minibus can legally carry a driver plus eighteen children between six and thirteen or twenty-four children between three and six years old, provided the maximum weight limit is not exceeded. However, this legal allowance does not equate to safety, as it means there may not be a designated seat or seatbelt per child.

Balancing Legality and Safety

While legal standards permit such loading configurations, it’s essential to highlight the potential safety risks associated with overloading. Having 18-24 children unrestrained in a moving vehicle poses a significant threat to their safety in the event of a crash or sudden braking. The absence of appropriate restraints compromises their well-being, urging us to prioritize safety over mere legality.

Parental Concerns and Responsibilities

Many parents utilizing school transport services often rely on public transportation themselves and need to leave for work before their children depart for school and may not witness the condition or loading of the vehicles. Balancing work and childcare responsibilities are a challenge, and relying solely on changing regulations is not sufficient. Parents need to take an active role in ensuring their children’s safety by communicating with the school and staying informed about the condition of the vehicles.

The Role of Teachers and Schools

Teachers play a pivotal role in our children’s lives, extending beyond the classroom. They are often present when the children are dropped off from the school transport, providing an opportunity to observe the vehicle’s condition and loading. Schools can take a proactive approach by assigning teachers to inspect vehicles, report any issues, and communicate with parents to collectively address safety concerns.

Striving for an Ideal World

In an ideal world, regulations would evolve to ensure that in school transport each child has a designated seat, seatbelt, and if needed, a car seat. While achieving this may take time, advocating for these changes is crucial. By raising awareness, working together, and pushing for safer transport conditions, we can strive towards a future where the safety of our little ones is always prioritized.

In conclusion, the existing regulations concerning the loading of school transport vehicles pose a safety risk for our young children. It’s imperative that parents, teachers, schools, and authorities collaborate to hold drivers accountable for safe loading practices. Furthermore, advocating for changes in regulations that prioritize individual safety measures for each child is a step towards creating a safer school transport environment for all.

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CHILD RESTRAINTS: ROAD SAFETY AS A SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL

“A very important concern we feel that is missing from these goals is one specifically focusing on road safety.”

May 2023 brings us the United Nations & World Health Organization’s 7th Annual Road Safety Week. This year’s focus is on sustainable transport, promoting walking, cycling and the us of public transport. This is tangentially connected to the United  Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, despite poor road safety being the leading cause of death in young people, the United Nations has not highlighted this important topic as a separate goal within its plan.

During the WHO & UN’s Road Safety Week, we wish to appeal to the United Nations to make road safety one of their Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that this is a fundamental human right in the modern age, as well as directly connected to many of the other goals they wish to resolve.

UNITED NATIONS’ SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

In 2015, the United Nations set out 17 Sustainable Development Goals as part of a 15-year plan. The aim of this was a global call to action against socio-economic and ecological issues such as climate change, inequality, poverty and injustice.

These goals are as follows:
● Goal 1: No Poverty
● Goal 2: Zero Hunger
● Goal 3: Good Health & Well Being
● Goal 4: Quality Education
● Goal 5: Gender Equality
● Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation
● Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy
● Goal 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth
● Goal 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
● Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
● Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities
● Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production
● Goal 13: Climate Action
● Goal 14: Life Below Water
● Goal 15: Life on Land
● Goal 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions
● Goal 17: Partnerships

With now less than 7 years remaining to meet these goals by 2030, the UN has called for a more “ambitious global effort”. They have appealed to governments, communities and businesses to mobilize as part of their Decade of Action campaign. From these goals, one can see how many would directly impact the others. Rather than addressing these goals as individual concerns, a complete restructuring and development of socio-economic and ecological systems is required. Each goal contributes to the improvement of the lives of everyone and thus all points should be tackled together due to their synergistic and intertwined nature.

A very important concern we feel that is missing from these goals is one specifically focusing on road safety.

ROAD SAFETY: AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

To quote the World Health Organization, “Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29”. A topical theme behind the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and many of their campaigns for future development, is the investment in future generations. To provide a better world for the children of tomorrow. Also, the intergenerational “passing of the baton” ensures that these goals continue to evolve as the world continues to change. It then becomes imperative that we counter the greatest threat to young people – greater than disease, natural disaster or famine. This becomes that much more relevant within the context of developing countries. These countries account for 93% of global road-related fatalities.

In developing countries, such as South Africa, socio-economic factors pose a barrier to effective road safety. Many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals share an intrinsic relationship with road safety. For example, poverty, available, accessible and safe public transport, and lack of quality education all directly contribute to the high rates of road-related injuries and deaths. Addressing the individual goals that contribute to these high rates would certainly lead to a decrease in these numbers. The issue of road safety should be addressed alongside these factors as its own separate goal.

The theme of the UN & WHO’s Global Road Safety Week is #RethinkMobility, which aims to address sustainable transport. They wish to emphasize walking, cycling and public transport. But overlooks the fact that in developing countries, without greater societal or economic reform, these goals feel idealistic.

In South Africa, factors such as poverty, high crime rates and lack of education alongside the drive for sustainable mobility, a push for people to make use of walking or cycling only increases the risk of road-related injuries. In a population of 61 million people, there are an estimated 12 million cars on the road in South Africa. Additionally, the rate of car ownership is currently in decline. This is especially true of younger adults, many of whom simply cannot afford to own and maintain a vehicle. Due to this, there is an increasing number of people who rely on walking, cycling and public transport to get from Point A to

Point B. When people resort to cycling or walking as a means to an end, rather than a conscious social effort, it is often done so in an environment that has not provided support that bolsters road safety measures – whether in the form of education or redesigning infrastructure. This can lead to an increase in the number of road-related injuries.

In South Africa, safe public transport is not widely available, leaving 68% of the country relying heavily on minibus taxi services. While this form of transport is the most widespread and affordable, these services are loosely regulated with many taxi operators not adhering to road safety standards or laws. Minibus taxis, generally with the capacity to legally carry 15 passengers, contribute heavily to cases of major crashes, in which five or more people die in a single crash. In addition to this, a large portion of taxi owners are affiliated with gangs and taxi violence remains a hot topic in South Africa, often putting drivers and passengers at risk of becoming victims of violent crime.

THE GLOBAL PLAN FOR ROAD SAFETY

Within the Decade of Action campaign, the UN & WHO have collaborated on a 2030 Global Plan For Road Safety. This plan seeks to improve road safety by addressing several factors. This includes efforts to implement urban planning that is conducive to public transport and pedestrians, safer road infrastructure, higher standards for safe vehicle design, safe road use and improved post-crash response. For developing countries, the plan aims to provide a special focus on low- and middle-income countries, which as highlighted above, is desperately needed. This plan, if actioned efficiently, could contribute to greater overall road safety. The UN & WHO have taken road safety under greater consideration in the past few years. However, this only demonstrates further reason for the inclusion of road safety as a pillar of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Road safety, like many of the Goals listed, shares a link with the other highlighted goals – sometimes as a result of them, other times as a catalyst.

It is impossible to talk about road safety without the inclusion of wider socio-economic factors in the conversation. And to discuss the other goals without observing the impact that they have on road safety only results in turning a blind eye to an enormous risk to the well-being and lives of our young people. The same young people to whom we are entrusting to carry the torch for the future of our planet and global civilisation.

THE IMPACT ON ROAD SAFETY ACTIVISM

For NGOs and activists fighting for safer roads, including road safety within the Sustainable Development Goals rather than as a separate and isolated concern will allow our fight to be brought to a greater number of people, as it means inclusion in a much larger conversation. If it were framed as one facet of a multi-dimensional greater global problem, improvements in road safety would be further supported through activism aimed at tackling other goals. When engaging local governments and communities, if road safety was to be seen as a fundamental piece of the larger sustainability puzzle, this would give validity to activist campaigns for better road safety. This is especially true in developing countries where road safety might not be considered a high-priority concern on its own. Currently, road safety is ever so lightly touched upon under the UN’s Sustainable Development 11th Goal: Sustainable Cities & Communities. The problem with this is that it prioritises road safety within the context of those living within cities. However, in doing so, it ignores the plight of those living in rural areas – a percentage of the population that is far greater in developing countries. We would argue that these are the communities that would benefit most from improved efforts and awareness relating to road safety.

Sustainable Cities also focuses more on the negative impact of vehicles on the road in terms of pollution, but little addresses the direct impact of lacking road safety itself. In trying to find information on road safety within the Sustainable Development Goals, it should be noted that information on this was incredibly hard to find. This is a recurring problem we often run into when it comes to information regarding road safety. The first step in awareness and education should begin with the availability of information.

Allowing for the topic of road safety to be elevated to the same level of prominence as other pillars of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals will have numerous benefits. For road safety NGOs & activist groups, this would allow for a more accessible transfer of information, a point of reference, and greater awareness. These are fundamental elements when enacting change and securing the necessary funding to facilitate said changes. Furthermore, in order to secure funding from corporate companies as their avenue for Corporate Social Investment, the inclusion of road safety as its own dedicated pillar will allow for NGOs to connect with companies who have a direct interest in road safety. These interests can include logistics, the motoring industry, petroleum and so on. Companies will more likely invest in a cause that is beneficial to them and speaks directly to their needs, but also causes that are regarded with importance on a grander scale in order to be impactful.

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7th UN Road Safety Week takes place 15th-21st May 2023.

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