Persons under the age of 18 are twice as likely to be killed on South African roads as any other part of the world.
This is according to Aliasgher Janmohammed, project manager for the Prevention of Injuries Impacting Children in South Africa, a UNICEF project managed by Childsafe in collaboration with the University of Cape Town.
“It’s truly disturbing that our children are being killed on our roads like this,” he lamented during his presentation: ‘Analysing Road Fatalities Impacting Children aged 0-17 In The Case of Gauteng: A Three-Year Analysis’ during the 2018 Southern African Transport Conference (SATC), which is taking place at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria this week.
Elaborating on the findings, he said child pedestrians had a physical disadvantage compared to adults. Children are further at risk as a result of their comparatively reduced cognitive abilities. “When children cross roads in South Africa, they do not look out for traffic. And when they do, it’s often in the wrong direction.”
Mr Janmohammed said that while there was international literature that indicated children should not be using the roads alone; in South Africa they do so frequently. “Children in South Africa play and interact with friends in the road, in a country with one of the highest road fatality rates in the world,” he said.
According to Mr Janmohammed, males are three to four times more likely to be killed on the road than females. Therefore, areas with greater male populations are considered especially high-risk areas.
He explained that most children in South Africa walk to access education, public transport or to return home. He said the findings on access to education indicated that 62% of children took longer than 15 minutes to get to school. This means that children in South Africa spend a lot of time on the roads, which increases their chances of being killed on them.
Analysis of road fatality data for the Gauteng province suggests that children aged 0 – 17 years constituted 7% of all road fatalities between 2015 and 2017. Over the three-year period of the analyses, the fatalities impacting children increased by 37%. Child pedestrians constituted the majority in each of the three years, followed by child passengers.
“Gauteng has an extremely high number of child road fatalities – almost as much as the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal – even though it is far smaller geographically,” Mr Janmohammed pointed out.
The findings further suggest that Gauteng roads are becoming more and more dangerous every year for children. And alarmingly, while the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2020 goal is to reduce road traffic fatalities and road injuries by 50%, South Africa’s statistics in this regard are not decreasing, let alone halving. In fact, over the three-year period analysed, child fatality rates in the country increased.
He explained that the majority of child road fatalities occur during the week, although the rate of fatalities is higher over weekends. Children are also being killed primarily after school i.e. from 1pm to 6pm. “After school activities are placing our children at great risk. We need to establish what these activities are and why children are having difficulties when using the roads.”
Contrary to popular belief, cars and light-duty vehicles – not mini-bus taxis – place kids in South Africa at most risk on the roads. “Mini-bus taxis make far more trips per day than the average car,” he argued. “And they don’t kill half as many children either.”
He said South Africa’s roads needed to cater better to pedestrian users and that the country needed localised road safety interventions.
“People in developing countries are often fascinated by road safety campaigns used by developed countries. We cannot always copy them; we have an extremely low road safety budget and we do not travel in the same way as people do in 1st world states,” Mr Janmohammed concluded.