According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year the lives of approximately 1.3 million people are cut short as a result of road traffic crash.
Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result of their injury.
Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years.
From a young age, males are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females. About three quarters (73%) of all road traffic deaths occur among young males under the age of 25 years who are almost 3 times as likely to be killed in a road traffic crash as young females.
Children have been classified as vulnerable road users worldwide. In Zanzibar, children, especially those who are under the age of 18, are among the most vulnerable road users.
The Zanzibar road accidents and offenses statistics for August 2021, show that 15 people died of whom were children under the age of 16.
Further, it was revealed that some of the road traffic crashes among the children between six and 17 years were attributed to pedestrians’ errors such as crossing the road improperly.
Other road accidents’ attributed factors are human error, mechanical faults, high speed, drivers’ negligence, lack of helmet usage, lack of seat-belt and child-restraint usage, drinking while driving and poor visibility on the road.
The behaviour of child pedestrians, passengers, and cyclists is part of the human factor which leads to the occurrence of traffic crashes.
One of the reasons why children easily become victims of road traffic crashes is that they lack road safety skills, education, and knowledge.
Reducing traffic injuries and fatalities among children, therefore, calls for an improvement in children’s behaviour by providing them with road safety knowledge, skills, education, and safer crossing points such as pedestrian crossings.
Much as some children may be equipped with road safety knowledge, they have other limitations which make them vulnerable road users.
Among the limitations are physical, cognitive, and social developments which make them more vulnerable in road traffic environments.
Due to their small stature, it can be difficult for children to be seen by drivers whilst in traffic. Furthermore, children may have difficulties interpreting various sights and sounds, which may impact on their judgment regarding the proximity, speed and direction of moving vehicles. The concentration span of children is yet another challenge that makes them vulnerable road users as it is short and they can struggle to attend to more than one problem at a time.
As they grow older, children of adolescent age, especially boys, are prone to take risks, which compromise their safety on the road.
According to the report, 31 in 37 of the August road crashes’ victims were males and six were girls.
The boys are also more vulnerable and prone to road traffic crashes than girls as they may engage in risky behaviours such as playing on the roadside. Children of school-going age are highly-vulnerable as they use complex traffic environment to walk and cross roads when they are going to and from school.
Although in many school areas there are police and civilians helping children cross the road, they are still being hit on the way home.
Social institutions such as schools and families become clear sources of influence on children and should instill road safety skills and education in children.
Due to the close interaction between parents and children, parents have an impact on the behaviour of children.
Parents or guardians are the primary role models to the children and they can take after the behaviour of their parents or guardians.
Just as parents or guardians, teachers and the clergy are equally role models to children and adolescents.
Road safety being a shared responsibility, child safety requires concerted efforts from parents or guardians, drivers, teachers, the clergy and all adults in making sure that they are looked after when they are on the road.
Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that the children are not just safe on the road but are imparted with the knowledge and skills on how to use the road correctly as pedestrians, passengers and cyclists.
Children, especially those of school-going age should not be left to walk or cross the roads unaccompanied as this may increase the risk of them being involved in road traffic crashes due to their failure to interpret road traffic situations accordingly.
In order to safe-guard the lives of the children, parents or guardians need to start training them on road safety as soon as they are able to understand basic concepts.
There is also need for adults to keep children who could be walking, cycling and riding in a motor vehicle safe at all times.
In conclusion, we should know that being a good role model is one of the most important ways adults can teach children.