Walking, cycling and other physical activity that would do much to curb overweight in kids will inevitably bring them into contact with the road. Kids are at risk for road traffic injuries for several reasons. Younger kids are constrained by their physical, emotional and social growth, making them more unsafe in road traffic than grown-ups. Due to their small stature, it can be difficult for kids to see surrounding traffic and for drivers to see them. Besides, if they are involved in a traffic accident, their softer body parts make them more exposed to serious injury than adults. Health-damaging accidents cause untold hardship and sorrow, and oftentimes economic strain on families and friends.
Younger kids may have difficulties interpreting various sights and signals, which may affect their perception regarding the location, velocity and direction of vehicles. They may also be impetuous, and their low focus means that they have difficulties with handling more than one challenge at a time. As they get older, they are especially inclined to risks, without regards for safety. Boys amount to nearly twice as many road traffic casualties as girls globally. This is thought to be due to greater exposure to traffic, as well as a tendency for boys to take more risks than girls, especially as adolescents.
Supervising children around roads is very important because young kids have a limited capacity to evaluate risk. Parents should help their kids discern what is happening around. Their role as supervisors is particularly useful for keeping kids safe on complex roads. Supervision can reduce the probability of a kid ending up in a traffic accident and strengthen preventive measures, such as ensuring children use seat-belts, car seats, and helmets, and follow the rules at school safety zones.
Road traffic injuries can and should be prevented. Community-based initiatives are instrumental in educating kids and their parents about road safety measures. Restraining children in vehicles is paramount for ensuring their safety. As compared to using seat-belts alone, booster seats are estimated to halve the risk of children aged 4 to 7 sustaining major damages during a traffic crash.
Seeing and being seen are essential for the safety of road users, especially for children due to their fragility. Light-colored clothing and retro-reflective strips on clothing or accessories such as backpacks can improve visibility. Other measures include forming “walking buses”, accompanying groups of children wearing reflective vests along established routes; appointing crossing guards; using front, rear and wheel reflectors as well as headlamps on bicycles; daytime running lights on motorcycles and vehicles.
In summary, while no single measure adequately tackles the broad array of risks to children on the road, the strategies below will help – especially when implemented as a whole – keep kids safe.
• Speed control
• Abstaining from drinking and driving
• Using helmets for bicyclists and motorcyclists
• Restraining kids in vehicles
• Improving children’s ability to see and be seen
• Adapting vehicle design
• Implementing graduated driver licensing.