ROAD traffic fatalities are said to be the ninth leading cause of death and disability in the world.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described them as ‘hidden epidemics’ and has forecast that they will be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide and the second leading cause of disability-adjusted life year losses in many developing countries by 2030. These projections are expected to bring about 2.4 million fatalities annually.
Low-income and middle-income countries which only have 48 percent of the world’s vehicles reportedly account for about 90 percent of these casualties.
However, while the casualty rate is decreasing significantly in the developed world as a result of ambitious accident countermeasures put in place, developing countries like Zambia, are trying to put in place some degree of attention to address to this growing threat.
While traffic crashes are predicted to further decrease by 27 percent in the developed countries by 2020, Zambia is also striving to reduce road traffic fatalities by 50 percent by that period.
According to WHO, road traffic crashes and injuries are one of the significant causes of child morbidity and mortality in Zambia. The pedestrians in Zambia suffer 45 percent of the fatal crashes per annum, although the comparative levels of exposure to risks are not known with certainty.
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared the first-ever “Decade of Action for Road Safety” which paved the way for a declaration and action plan adopted by African heads of State in January 2012; which brought the challenge of road safety to the forefront of development.
Zambia is a signatory to the Decade of Action for Road Safety, therefore, the Road Transport Safety Agency (RTSA) which is the lead agency in promoting road safety in the country, is spearheading a number of vigorous programmes aimed at reducing road traffic accidents in the country.
Among the many road safety interventions aimed at saving the lives of young people in Zambia, is the integration of road safety in the primary and secondary school curriculum from Grade One to 12.
RTSA working in collaboration with the Ministry of General Education and the Curriculum Development Centre, developed books to be used and distributed throughout primary and secondary schools in Zambia. The books will also be translated into the major local languages as a way of increasing awareness on matters of road safety among school children
Those of us who went to the old schools should recall how our teachers would make us sing beautiful songs before and after class. One of the song went like: “I want to cross the road; look right, look left, and look right again…” It was a road safety reminder as we crossed many roads to and from school. The song enhanced our road safety consciousness.
However, in the recent past, the song seems to have vanished from the beautiful classrooms. So, RTSA and the Ministry of General Education want to bring back those glory days when road safety was part of the learning process in many schools. This is the reason why we are introducing road safety education as in the school curriculum.
Road safety should not only be taught to drivers in driving schools but to all citizens, including school children. Such an initiative, will help us change the mindsets of all road users.
RTSA wants to go beyond helping children cross the roads through the traffic wardens employed nationwide. Currently the number of schools with road safety clubs stands at 846 and those with traffic wardens are 205.
The formulation of road safety school curriculum would prove relevant in reducing road traffic accidents as every citizen who has passed through school will have the basic information and knowledge on road safety. This responsibility should not just be left to RTSA and the Zambia Police.
I am aware that the introduction of road safety in the school curriculum will not end all road traffic accidents, but will surely provide a significant reduction in their occurrence. When Zambian citizens are equipped with road safety education, individuals will develop a sense of responsibility for their own safety and wellbeing of other road users.
The majority of those affected by road traffic accidents are the vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, with a good number being school children. Remember, road traffic accidents creates a burden for victims and their families in terms of deaths, injuries and related costs to victims.
The author is Head – Public Relations
Road Transport and Safety Agency