How well is your child trained on road safety?

By Immaculate Karambu
Posted Wednesday, December 29 2010 at 00:00

It was on the eve of Christmas and Esther Wambui, a mother of five, was stuck in a ward at Kenyatta National Hospital.

She was at the hospital to nurse her seven-month-old son, Stephen Waweru, who was hit by a car a month ago.

Master Waweru had just had his breakfast and was lying beside their house in Murang’a when a car veered off the road and headed for him.

Other children ran away, leaving helpless Waweru behind. He was hit by the car.

“He is doing better now as compared to the day he was admitted here,” said Ms Wambui, glad that her son did not sustain severe injuries.

In the same ward is 8-year-old William Walter who was knocked down by a speeding car while crossing a road during an errand to a neighbourhood shop.

Injuries and deaths

Unlike Waweru, William recalls the incident vividly, adding that he had crossed the same road innumerable times to and from school.

While not all road accident injuries and deaths are documented, the accidents are a major killer of both adults and children in Kenya.

“By 2015 road crashes are predicted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be the leading cause of premature death and disability for children aged five and above,” said World Bank road safety specialist Victor Mengot.

According to experts, every adult has the responsibility of ensuring that roads are safe, and more importantly, that children grow up knowing road safety rules.

This is not new in Kenya. About a decade ago road safety was a key topic in the school curriculum.

It has since been given minimal attention, giving way to other health topics such as hygiene and HIV/Aids education.

“When we were growing up road safety lessons were a big thing in primary school. Today, children hardly get such practical knowledge,” said Nargis Kasmani, a volunteer in a road safety programme.

During the lessons, children got practical road safety lessons at traffic parks — for those in urban areas — while their rural peers were taken to nearby roads.Currently, only four traffic parks are functional. They are Nairobi, Nyeri, Kakamega and Kisumu parks.

They were revived a year ago after local companies rolled out road safety programmes.

In other towns, traffic parks remain in poor condition, thanks to mismanagement by the respective road safety councils.

The Automobile Association of Kenya (AA of Kenya) has been running a road safety training programme targeting primary school children, which has recently entered the second phase.

The association relies on the four traffic parks for training activities with the hope that the Roads ministry will fast-track plans to renovate dilapidated facilities found in major towns countywide.

“In urban areas one finds busy roads and since many school going children have to cross them every day, we have identified the need to bring up a road safety conscious generation,” said David Njoroge, director general of AA of Kenya.

Similar initiatives have been undertaken by local petroleum companies and a host of other firms which have sponsored road safety training programmes.

Data shows that visits to the four traffic parks grew over the last year, a trend road safety specialists hope will continue as more organisations invest in the training.

Since March, when the first phase of AA of Kenya Children Road Safety Programme was rolled out, 7,000 children from 76 primary schools, mostly from urban areas, have benefited from training at the traffic parks.

Other institutions, through their respective programmes, have sponsored visits to the parks.

A total of 30,000 children have visited the parks since the beginning of this year.

But how effective will these programmes be if restricted to urban areas?

Those involved argue that while training at the parks will mainly benefit urban children faced with the challenge of crossing busy highways each day to school, there is need to extend similar training to rural children.

Among proposed strategies to curb accidents is inclusion of practical road safety lessons in primary school education.

But whether training at school or in a traffic park, experts advise that adults should take active roles in assisting children to cross roads and train them on road safety, putting emphasis on common causes of road accidents.Road deaths have been rising in the last decade. Currently, Kenya leads her East African partners in the number of road deaths which stand at 3,000 per year, out of which 44 per cent are pedestrians.

But the deaths are a tip of the iceberg as many people live with permanent disabilities resulting from the accidents.

Live with disabilities

According to World Health Organisation data, the number of children below six years who are likely to live with disabilities related to road accidents will rise from the current eight million globally to more than 15 million by 2020.

While more than 85 per cent of road accidents are blamed on human error, developing road safety conscious children can help reduce the accidents.

However, the training begins with parents. How well is your child trained on road safety?

Little things like assigning older children the responsibility of helping younger ones cross roads safely go a long way to curb road carnage

A traffic officer explains traffic rules to pupils at a traffic park Up to 30,000 children have visited traffic parks this year. Photo/FILE

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