Protecting Children on The Nation’s Roads


Children, because of their size, age and inexperience, are the most vulnerable of pedestrian road users and as such they are the special focus of the Road Safety Unit (RSU), says Paul Clemetson, Director of the Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Works.
“One-third of all road fatalities are pedestrians and 33 1/3 per cent of these deaths are children below the age of 15…75 per cent of these children are below age nine,” he says.
The child’s greater vulnerability stems from the fact that his/her stages of development cause him/her to be more frail, hence more likely to suffer severe injury, and the likelihood of death increases, explains the Director of the RSU.
“We observe that injuries sustained by children are usually head injuries, injuries of the spine, pelvic [region], the spleen, heart, lungs, ribcage,” Mr. Clemetson tells JIS News.
The RSU has been focusing on child-pedestrian accidents, and the safety and well being of child-pedestrians for the past three years and it is felt that road/traffic education at an early age is critical to a child’s development, because lessons learned well at this time will stand them in good stead throughout their lives, while lessons not learned may mean that they may not have a life to enjoy.
“This is due to the fact that children are not adequately psychologically and physically prepared for this vicious and hostile environment,” Mr.Clemetson says. “Studies show that a child up to age 12 will be able to recite information that is taught to him/her, but not be able to apply this information and this shows itself very clearly in their behaviour in traffic,” he adds.
The head of the RSU is of the view that motorists, parents and guardians alike must become aware of children’s limitations. These limitations, by virtue of the stage of their development, expose them to greater risk on the road, says Mr. Clemetson as he outlines the limitations.
Psychological limitations of children
Children do not readily detect the direction of sounds
They often horseplay and are impulsive. They have little or no sense of danger.
Their thinking and sensing skills are not fully developed and are often confused by the complex traffic environment.
They do not have the developmental skills to identify safe places to cross the road.
Children cannot accurately judge vehicle distance or speed.
Fear often triggers irrational behaviour in children.
Children do not look at the whole picture; they focus on one specific detail at a time.
They do not always consider safety factors before acting
Children learn by playing.
Physical limitations of children
Children, depending on their age and size, may not be able to see over a parked car.
Their head-to-body ratio makes them topple more easily.
A child’s motor skills are not as developed as an adult’s so that their muscular coordination and movement are not as agile and they may fall more readily.
Children do not have wide-angled vision and so they are not able to see at the corner of their eye. In fact studies show that their eyes are not fully developed until they are 18-years old.
A child’s vision does not readily adjust from long view to up close, and this often impedes their judgment when attempting to cross the road.
Dr. Elizabeth Ward, Director of Disease Prevention and Control in the Division of Health Promotion and Protection, is of the view that a significant contributor to the number of road fatalities is the type of traffic on the roads. “The larger our vehicles become, the more these small vulnerable children become victims of these cars that are speeding along,” she says.
She appeals to drivers therefore to exercise greater caution on the roads, and calls for more child-friendly areas.
“We really want to see that we have safe, clean, green spaces for children to play. If children don’t have to play on the road or right next to a road, they are less likely to be flying out in front of a car after a ball,” she explains.
Dr. Ward mentions too the necessity for properly illuminated, identified and maintained sidewalks for pedestrians to use, and safe cycle paths for pedal cyclists.
In the meantime, the Road Safety Unit is prepared to continue its education campaign, which started in 2001, to promote and encourage the safety of children in traffic. Back then, the RSU launched 276,000 books for children of Primary and all-age schools entitled ‘Safety on Our Roads, Volumes 1 and 2’.
“We were instrumental in conducting workshops both with educational officers and teachers in the pedagogical use of these materials and they are now being used to transmit the important disciplines on the road,” the RSU Director tells JIS News. “The Unit has subsequently intensified its education programme in schools. We set as our target that we will visit a minimum of 90 schools annually”, he adds.
Other activities being undertaken by the RSU include displays and showcasing of road safety paraphernalia in rural communities and townships; inserts in the Gleaner’s Children’s Own magazine; distribution of the Crossing Code in schools and communities; and distribution of ‘Out to School’ and ‘Journey of Life’ brochures through a joint programme with the Ministry of Health, which facilitates the distribution of these brochures through hospitals and clinics.
The RSU has also developed a flyer that focuses on the necessity of adults to take better care of children in traffic.
“This we propose to distribute soon because we have already designed and developed this flyer. We have also developed an audio commercial that looks at how children place themselves at risk as a consequence of their shortcomings in traffic,” says Mr. Clemetson.
The RSU has identified seven ways to reduce your child’s vulnerability
1. Set a good example. Parents/care givers are the best road safety teachers.
2. Children up to eight years old should hold an adult’s hand when crossing the road.
3. Children up to ten years old should be actively supervised around traffic.
4. Take the time to make sure your children are aware of, understand and follow traffic safety regulations when they are walking.
5. Teach your children to be aware of their environment: for example, wearing headphones or getting distracted by playing with friends on the way to or from school can make them more vulnerable to accidents.
6. Make sure your own driving and parking are not endangering your own or others’ children. Obey all parking signs and speed limits, and always be on the lookout for the unexpected. Many traffic safety issues around schools arise from the driving and parking behaviour of parents.
7. NEVER call your child (under eight years of age) across the road.

JIS Social