The new school term has begun; therefore the Society of Road Safety Ambassadors (SORSA) is urging drivers to use extra caution as roads woill be more populated by young children travelling to and from school.
With all the excitement and eagerness to be back in class, children should remember that roads can be dangerous. When travelling in school zones, moving out of driveways and navigating through parking lots and neighbourhoods, motorists can expect to see an increase in pedestrian traffic during morning, lunch and afternoon hours as children walk or cycle to school or wait for public transport. SORSA reminds everyone to pay attention, slowdown in school zones and follow traffic rules.
Although our traffic police and other stakeholders such as SORSA, DRTS and MVA Fund continue to search for more ways to reach out to our young ones, on road safety, the statistics indicate that we have a mammoth task ahead of us. It is disheartening to know that annually, children aged under 16 years die on our roads in Botswana as passengers and pedestrians. Two hundred and thirty one (231) lives of children have been claimed by road accidents in the past five years, while 787 and 2,576 children had serious and minor injuries respectively. With all this said, it is quite evident that Botswana is faced with a serious problem, not only are children at high risk in vehicles or on bicycles, they are vulnerable as pedestrians and are often killed or injured in the simple act of walking to and from school and hence this warrants robust intervention measures by all stakeholders, that is private sector, business community, schools community, policy makers and civic society.
The home to school journey is a point of considerable exposure and risk for our children. It therefore remains imperative that our road safety measures take into consideration this problem. This is because children have difficulty making way through traffic - they need to be tall enough to view the surrounding traffic and it may be difficult for motorists to see them.
Children have difficulty judging the distance between themselves and other objects or vehicles, particularly when both are in motion; children have difficulty measuring the size and speed of vehicles from the sound of the engine as they approach; and lastly children are active, energetic and often impulsive. They can move quietly and quickly. They get highly absorbed in whatever they’re doing, including chasing a ball behind a car. They often don’t stop, even if you ask them to.
SORSA is therefore of the view that drivers must accept the responsibility for keeping children safe. It is not good enough to plead in mitigation that a child ran out of nowhere - that is what children do and drivers should moderate their speed accordingly.
Accidents are never solely a child’s fault. A driver who fails to allow for children’s unpredictable behaviour and does not slow down is at fault. Drivers have a responsibility to slow down, and not slowing down when children are close-by is not careful driving - it’s reckless and dangerous. This is an important time for parents and teachers to remind children of traffic rules and
1. Stop! Look! and Listen!
This is the number one rule when crossing the road. Always remember to stop, look both ways and listen for oncoming traffic. Never attempt to cross a road without first looking in both directions. It is important not only to look for moving vehicles but also pay attention to parked vehicles. Parents should teach their children this ‘golden’ rule. As much as possible, parents should practice the crossing of roads with their child/children.
2. Use pedestrian crossings
Always use pedestrian crossings when possible. If none are nearby try to avoid intersections and blind spots. Parents must familiarise their children with pedestrian crossings.
3. Walk facing oncoming traffic
Children should always walk facing oncoming traffic. When walking down on one-way roads you should be extremely vigilant of traffic coming from behind.
4. Walk only on pavements
Children should only walk on pavements or footpaths. If no pavements or footpaths are available walk on the right hand side of the road in order to see oncoming traffic.
5. Behave responsibly
The road is not a play area and serious injury or death can result from carelessness and irresponsibility. Parents must teach their children to behave on the road as they would in the playground.
6. Avoid using cell phones
Some children especially the older ones carry cell phones. Not only does the use of cell phones affect the concentration of drivers it also reduces pedestrian’s awareness of activities around them. Children should therefore avoid using cell phones (listening to music or using social media apps) especially when crossing roads.
Children learn what they live so it is your responsibility to set a good example for them to follow. If they see you behaving carelessly on the road they are likely to do the same. They should be encouraged to obey safety rules at all times, so when walking try to obey the road code as children could be watching you looking for an example! Young children should never be sent out alone, especially at night. Remember it is your responsibility to know where your children are at all times!
1. Slow down. Reduce speed in school zones.
2. Keep your eyes on the road and your mind focused on driving. Pay attention while driving and eliminate dangerous distractions that can increase the risk of being involved in a collision. Store mobile phones out of reach to limit texting, calling, e-mailing or other cell phone distractions while driving.
3. Reverse responsibly. Check for children on the sidewalk, in driveways, school parking lots and around your vehicle before slowly backing up.
4. Plan for extra time. Drive slowly and choose alternate routes to avoid school zones if possible, or plan ahead and allow for extra travel time.
5. Remember, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be alert, to follow the rules of the road and to have patience to help keep everyone safe travelling to-and-from school.