While road traffic injuries are a major killer across the board, children seem to be disproportionately affected by this reality -- no doubt due to their smaller stature, and also their lack of awareness and worldliness.
Given this reality, it's no surprise that the UN chose to highlight the issue during this year's Global Road Safety Week -- focusing on the possibilities available to those looking to decrease child mortality via traffic accidents, whether in high-income countries or low- to middle-income countries.
Considering that traffic injuries are one of the top killers of those under 20 years old, the issue certainly does seem to deserve some focus.
The issue though, is that most discussions seem to focus on trying to change the behavior of the people involved through indirect means -- a difficult proposition. Rather, a far better option may be to force behavioral changes through environmental ones -- such as through the introduction of speeds bumps; through the narrowing of block lengths; or through the creation of safety barriers; amongst other options.
A case study from South Korea serves as a good example here of what's possible (via The CityFix):
One such project was the School Zone Improvement Project, implemented throughout several Korean cities. The Project aimed to create safe routes from children’s homes to kindergartens, elementary schools and childcare facilities. Officials started by reducing speed limits through infrastructure design tools, such as speed bumps. They established dedicated right-of-ways for pedestrians, and created clear distinctions between sidewalks and roads. New fences further protected children from road hazards.
City officials also installed traffic signals and speed limit signs within 300 meters of a school’s main gate, and painted roads within school zones with messages such as “school zone” and “protect children” so that drivers would proceed with caution. And finally, they banned street parking on roads leading to schools’ main entrances, reducing the potential that vehicles and children could come into contact.
The School Zone Improvement Project produced very positive results. The measures led to roughly 32% fewer traffic accidents involving children each year. Combined with comprehensive measures such as traffic safety regulation, school bus operation and civil activities, Korea has successfully reduced its child traffic fatalities by 95% in a little more than two decades.
I'd say that it'd be pretty hard to argue with those results. So the path is clearly there. It just remains to be taken by those in power.
Photo by Seoul’s Seocho District Office.