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The dangers children face on the roads around the world

Los peligros que afrontan los niños en las carreteras de todo el mundo


One of the leading causes of death among children under 14 years old is related to road accidents. In fact, in 2014 this was the leading external cause of death among young children. However, these figures are going down in Spain and Europe as a whole.

Advances in child restraint systems, in active and passive safety in cars and increased driver and passenger awareness are some of the main reasons why these accident rate figures have been decreasing over the long term.

To cite the World Health Organization, according to their own report road accident rates continue to be one of the leading causes of death for children and young adults, especially between the ages of 5 and 29 years old. Moreover, according to this same study over 1.35 million people worldwide died in road accidents.

This data suggests that we need to change the current agenda on children's health, which has largely neglected road safety. This is the eighth leading cause of death in all age groups, ranking above HIV, tuberculosis and diarrhoeal diseases.

Injuries and deaths due to road accidents disproportionately affect vulnerable road users and those living in low and middle-income countries. In these developing countries, the growing number of deaths is due to increasing motorized transport.

Between 2013 and 2016 there was no reduction in the number of deaths in road accidents in any low-income countries, while there was a reduction in 48 middle and high-income countries. Generally speaking, the number of deaths increased in 104 countries during this period.

The reason for this is because there has been no legislative progress in these developing countries In Tanzania, as demonstrated in a recent report in the Revista de la DGT (Department of Traffic Journal), «these laws are non-existent, the police have scarce resources and people do not tend to look both ways before crossing the road or think to slow down in urban areas». 

In 2015 alone, 16,211 people died in Tanzania in traffic accidents. In order to try to mitigate this epidemic a campaign called the Safe Walks program has been launched. It is aimed at 4 to 7 year old students and consists of teaching drivers, teachers and children about basic rules, by writing songs or stories about what they learn.

The only way to solve this growing problem is to invest resources in drafting strict legislation and raising public awareness in African and Asian countries. This would need to include strict regulations in all areas of road safety and should focus on all road users: pedestrians, drivers, passengers and children. 

We need to ensure that all countries follow WHO recommendations in order to ensure that satisfactory road safety laws are put in place:

  • the existence of a law that takes into account age, weight or height in order for children to be able to travel on the front seats.
  • a national law that stipulates the use of child restraint systems based on age, height or weight.

Only 53 countries currently meet these two criteria, representing only 17% of the world population (1.2 billion people). We have a long way to go in terms of children's road safety.

This video from the International Automobile Federation (FIA) demonstrates the dangers that children from around the world face in this respect: Save Kids Lives.

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