Governments and cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as international agencies gathered together at the III International Child Road Safety Forum held on 12 and 13 June in Buenos Aires with the goal of covering the problem of children's road accident rates and in order to put forward ideas and proposals to combat it. Road accidents are the leading cause of child mortality between the ages of 5 and 14 in the region, as shown in the report presented during the congress. The forum was organized by the Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport through the Argentinian National Road Safety Organization and the help of other international bodies.
For a two-day period, experts in the field covered several ways of improving child mobility in all Latin American and Caribbean countries. This was the third edition of this forum which brought together over 300 attendees and more than 70 international experts.
FISEVI held 15 sessions covering a shift in focus for road safety based on the creation of safe systems. The goal is to eliminate deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic accidents due to users making mistakes, meaning that safety standards need to be brought about from the design of the road networks.
During the session, a report was presented entitled “Streets for Life: Safe and Healthy Journeys for the Children of Latin America and the Caribbean”, published jointly by UNICEF, Save the Children, la Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez and the FIA Foundation. The report highlights that children in low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of suffering the consequences of the combination of effects that road traffic generates. Millions of children in Latin America live in areas where the levels of contamination are dangerously high, and vehicle emissions contribute significantly to these levels.
The report also highlights that almost 50 children lose their lives on the region's highways every day. It should be noted that the most vulnerable children are those that live in low-income neighborhoods and that more children die as pedestrians than as passengers of vehicles.
In fact, it is notable that 88% of the highways analyzed in the region did not have pedestrian walkways in certain areas, where speeds reach over 40km/h and 68% did not have established footpaths.
Safety on a motorcycle is also of great concern. Here emphasis was made of the need to make wearing a helmet compulsory in order to combat the high accident rates.
“On the journey to school, many children are exposed to severe danger, such as coming across traffic moving at life-threatening speeds, with no walkways or safe crossing areas", stated Jamaican Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce during the forum. On top of this, they are breathing in toxic air. “Our children are simply trying to get to school and we are failing in our duty to keep them safe and sound", highlighted Shelly-Ann.
To this end, a call to action and requests for financing is made to governments, donors and the main agencies working on child health in order to ensure that every child in the region has a safe and healthy journey to school and to be able to protect children from the adverse affects that their journey can have on their health.
The report also compiles effective policies that are saving lives on the Latin American and Caribbean highways, such as, for example, the City of Mexico, where the idea of 'Vision Zero for Youth', which centers on speed management as one of the biggest risk factors causing injuries and deaths on the highways.
The Fundación MAPFRE 2016 dossier on child road safety in cars in Spain and Latin America: Child car seats’ reveals that almost 5000 children from 0 to 14 years old died in a total of 18 LAC countries. The average child mortality rate for traffic accidents in these countries is 32 deaths per million people while the rate in the European Union is 6 child fatalities per million people, which demonstrates there is a long way to go in order to reduce children's road accident rates in the region.