How a road safety program & new ratings system for schools are saving young lives
Every single day, more than 700 children around the world are killed in preventable traffic crashes. Sometimes, this happens just yards from their school entrance. In Asia alone, roads kill more children between 5–19 years old than diseases such as AIDS and malaria.
We absolutely must do better to protect our young. The stark truth is that “roads aren’t designed for children,” according to Michael Chippendale, Manager of Communications, Membership and Project Support at the Global Road Safety Partnership.
What’s more, “the younger age bracket aren’t able to negotiate the road system safely, they don’t understand the risks,” Chippendale said. At a recent webinar hosted by ADB Transport, he shared insights into why road safety education and road skills training are fundamental to keeping children safe.
Road safety starts with the young
At a young age, children are simply not developed enough to judge speeds or calculate risks. They are easily distracted. And being so small, drivers have a harder time spotting them, Chippendale pointed out.
With these challenges in mind, Michelin and Total’s corporate foundations joined to launch VIA, a major road safety education programme for children from 10 to 18. It aims to directly reach 100,000 young people worldwide by end-2022, with support from GRSP.
“Pilots began in 2019, in India, France and Cameroon. Today, it’s in 17 countries, reaching over 18,000 students, with over 3,000 hours of structured education,” Chippendale explained. Lessons come in the form of manuals, fact sheets, work sheets, games, videos, and quizzes. You can even download the VIA app for Android here: VIA — Global Road Safety Education Game
Making roads around schools safer
To add to the important work around educating children, the AIP Foundation in Viet Nam is helping to make sure that the roads around schools are safer. The Star Rating for Schools (SR4S) programme is doing this with help from interventions and crash data.
Minh Vo, Master Trainer with the foundation, and her colleagues work with schools in Asia Pacific to assign star ratings to the roads around schools, and based on these, advise on improvements. As part of their ‘slow zones, safe zones’ programme, staff visit schools to conduct risk assessments.
They will assess 28 specific road attributes, including “the road crossing, the sidewalk, the median, the road condition, intersection, traffic flow,” said Minh during the webinar. Typically, a high-risk school location has high traffic flow and high speed; high records of road crashes; and a great number of student pedestrians.
At one school, the SR4S team recommended interventions such as improved sidewalks, road marks and the installation of a raised crosswalk. At another, the interventions included paved sidewalks, pedestrian fencing, warning lights, and speed limit signs. According to Minh, as many as 364,000 people benefit from road modifications per week at these two schools.
With these programmes in place, the hope is that they will prevent the senseless deaths of young children in the countries they work. Everyone should be protected from harm as they pursue their education and live their lives. — Nurfilzah Rohaidi
Minh Vo, Master Trainer for SR4S, of AIP Foundation, Viet Nam was also kind enough to answer several questions on the program:
1. Is the program focused on primary schools (ages 6–12)?
Yes, our Slow Zones, Safe Zones program focused on primary schools. We used Star Rating for Schools (SR4S) tool to assess the road infrastructure at specific locations where students, parents, teachers felt unsafe around their school zones. SR4S can be used to assess any school zones despite the school level (primary, secondary, high school, college/university).
2. Follow up to the above: What is the pre-school assessment that is done by SR4S?
It is pre-school zone safety assessment. In other words, it is “pre-intervention assessment”. We conduct pre- and post-intervention school zone safety assessment using SR4S to assess the safety level of school infrastructure before and after road modifications.
3. What were the outcomes in terms of (reduction of) injury and fatalities? Was this tracked?
Yes, we conducted the crash monitoring with students through students’ self-report at baseline and endline survey. Our trained volunteers were also present in classes when students did the self-report to answer any questions that arose and avoid the participation and interference of teachers. In the first phase of our program (2018–2020), among all crashes occurring with students, the rate of crashes occurring near school zones of target schools decreased from 34.1% at baseline to 30.4% at endline. Beside road modifications, there were also enforcement by police and public awareness campaign, which accounted for the decrease in the percentage of students’ crashes near school zones.
From the Global Road Safety Partnership, Michael Chippendale, Manager of Communications, Membership and Project Support and Sabrina Hoong, Communications, Membership and Project Support Officer were also able to answer several questions on the VIA program.
1. The VIA program is suited for what age group, and how can I access the modules and training materials?
VIA is suitable for children aged 10 to 18. The modules and training materials can be accessed on the digital platform, and implementing partners will have their accounts registered once the size, scope and geography of local implementation are confirmed with the funding organisation.
2. What is the entry point for countries or institutions who would like to consider including the education program in their curriculum?
They can get in touch with GRSP and we as the Global Manager of VIA can provide support to integrate VIA into their educational curriculum, such as training of trainers/teachers, programme oversight or coordination, etc.
3. Are there similar road safety education programs and how does VIA differ from them?
There are many road safety education programmes created around the world over the years, and by different stakeholders such as private cooperates, CSOs, government agencies or ministries. However, many often run in silo, operate short-term and are designed specific to the local contexts.
VIA differs by using a structured learning approach based on global knowledge from road safety and education practitioners around the world, while retaining a degree of flexibility in its modular exercises which can be customised, adapting to local needs and environments.
VIA also has a digital platform for a range of functions. Implementors can access learning materials or digital tools, submit data and report progress while Managers can view trend data, track deliverables and monitor implementation status.
4. Has any study been completed to assess outcome of the program in terms of injuries and fatalities from road crashes?
Not as of now, because that would require years of working in the same locality and a very robust crash reporting mechanism within the country to accurately measure and study such results. Nonetheless, local implementors are free to assess the outcome of the programme using indicators which they find works best for their respective implementations. We have a mandatory behavioural based survey to evaluate perceived behavioural change in students on the roads and satisfaction surveys to identify areas of improvement to continously refine the experiences of VIA.