Red Alert

Every day, more than 500 children and young people die in road traffic accidents around the world. The DEKRA Road Safety Report 2019 provides insight as to the causes, and measures to improve this horrific toll.

Learning it early: Red means stop! Photo: istock - SerrNovik

Learning it early: Red means stop! Photo: istock – SerrNovik

The numbers are alarming: according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 186,000 children and young people under the age of 19 die in road accidents each year, equating to one fatal accident approximately every three minutes. In its 2018 annual report “Global Action for Healthy Streets,” the FIA Foundation (Fédération Internationale de l‘Automobile) even estimates that number to be higher, at 249,000 children and young people. Road traffic victims under the age of 15 – almost 112,000 according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington, Seattle – account for almost 60 percent of the 186,000 deaths mentioned above. There are many reasons for this, from lack of experience to the poor risk assessment and carelessness of children and adolescents, as well as insufficient consideration and the excessive speed or distraction of other road users.

“In Germany and Europe in particular, great progress has already been made in child road traffic safety. But even here, there is still great potential to improve children’s traffic safety further,” Clemens Klinke, Board Member DEKRA SE, says.

Leading by example

Traffic School: In many regions around the world, playful traffic training sessions are offered for young children. Photo: imago / Xinhua

Traffic School: In many regions around the world, playful traffic training sessions are offered for young children. Photo: imago / Xinhua

Undoubtedly, one of the most important tasks in sustainably improving road safety is traffic education, which ideally begins at the preschool age. Children are – due to their cognitive development – often unable to make the right decision in dangerous situations. In addition, other road users must also be made aware of children’s possible behavior in road traffic. Parents in particular should always lead by example and be aware that they are role models for their children – whether in crossing the street or wearing a bicycle helmet.

In addition to traffic education, it is important to ensure safe road infrastructure, especially in areas surrounding kindergartens and schools. This may, for example, be through speed reduction measures. After all, collision speed is a serious factor in the severity of injuries sustained in an accident. In addition to good infrastructure with well-maintained and well-lit streets, speed cameras or appropriate signage of accident blackspots, children can also contribute to their own road safety. For example, wearing high-contrast clothing with retroreflective elements and ensuring bicycles have working brakes and lights.

Thanks to jackets with retroreflective elements, the children in the image on the right are easily recognized, unlike those without high-contrast clothing. Photos: Thomas Küppers

DEKRA Verkehrssicherheitsreport 2019 Warnwesten für Kinder. Foto: Thoma Küppers DEKRA Verkehrssicherheitsreport 2019 Warnwesten für Kinder. Foto: Thoma Küppers

As DEKRA has repeatedly pointed out in its previous Road Safety Reports, human error in traffic situations is a common cause of accident. Even if it’s just a quick tap of the satnav or smartphone, changing the radio volume or temperature of the air conditioning, those few seconds are enough to cover significant distances ‘flying blind,’ even at low speeds. Were a child to suddenly run into the road, it would be in mortal peril. Recently, DEKRA testing has confirmed that there is great potential for automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection to help in these situations.

These and many other facts about child road traffic safety can be found in the current DEKRA Road Safety Report 2019. It is available for download in various languages. Additional content includes videos and interactive graphics.

Through crash testing, DEKRA demonstrates the effectiveness of pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking systems. Photo: Thomas Küppers

Through crash testing, DEKRA demonstrates the effectiveness of pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking systems. Photo: Thomas Küppers

Interview: “There must be no more excuses”

Saul Billingsley, Executive Director, FIA Foundation. Photo: FIA Foundation

Saul Billingsley, Executive Director, FIA Foundation. Photo: FIA Foundation

DEKRA solutions: Today, road traffic injuries are the most common cause of death worldwide for young people aged five and over. Where do you see the greatest need for action?

Saul Billingsley: We absolutely must ensure that children are nowhere near dangerous vehicles. The best way to do that is, for example, to stop traffic being a danger to children by reducing its movement to very low speed – below 30 km/h – in places where children are likely to be walking, cycling or playing. Or we could remove vehicles from those streets altogether. It is also, incidentally, a vital foundation for encouraging fewer car trips by parents and carers, and therefore an important contributor to tackling air pollution and climate change.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, 85 percent of children under the age of 15 killed in road accidents come from low and middle-income countries. From your point of view, have the signs of the times been sufficiently recognized in these countries?

Many developing countries face an array of difficult social and economic problems, so it is understandable that road safety may be low on their agenda. But international policymakers – institutions like the World Bank, WHO and UNICEF – have no excuse. Unfortunately, they are still moving far too slowly to push this onto the agendas of donors and governments alike. This is the reason why the Child Health Initiative, coordinated by the FIA Foundation, is now working with other institutions to call for a global summit for the health of children and young people.

Can African or Asian countries learn anything about road safety from the EU or the USA? Or do they still have enough homework to do themselves?

The basic laws of physics – the higher the speed and the heavier the object, the worse the damage – are the same everywhere. Every country can therefore do something to improve road safety – for example reduce speeds and separate different types of road users from each other in terms of road construction. One of the lessons that policymakers in the USA and Europe are at last understanding – that if you provide more space for cars you get ever more car journeys – could and should be applied in the African, Asian and Latin American cities where the car is still king of the planning departments, and too many high speed urban motorways are still being built. Many cities in the Global South are predicted to double in size over the next ten to twenty years. This forecast should be taken as an opportunity for even more efficient urban planning. In other words, providing affordable public transport, building attractive pedestrian and cycling facilities and ensuring that the distribution of space is in favor of the majority of people who don’t have access to a car.

 

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