Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, has strengthened its commitment to road safety by providing funding for the ChildSafe Pedestrian Safety Programme. The aim of the project is to create safer environments for child pedestrians around school zones, changing road user behaviour and raising community-wide awareness around pedestrian safety. It aims to benefit 15 000 school children, 5 000 parents and 150 teachers.
“Approximately 11 million children walk to school every day in South Africa,” says Yolande Baker, Executive Director of ChildSafe. “Tragically, child pedestrians constitute 64 percent of all child road deaths in South Africa which has good road infrastructure for cars, but not pedestrians. Children are highly vulnerable on the way to school due to their small height and underdeveloped cognitive abilities. This, combined with the lack of safe walking areas, speeding drivers and drivers not looking out for pedestrians, results in South Africa’s high child pedestrian fatality rate.”
With road safety being one of the core focus areas for the Ford Motor Company Fund, it has provided a US$50 000 (R750 000) grant to ChildSafe to support its child road safety campaign. “Thanks to Ford’s generous funding, we are now able to initiate Walk This Way, a holistic, multi-level intervention which addresses road user behaviour, along with improving the road environment for children of schools in high-risk areas,” Baker says.
The project will focus on six schools along the same stretch of road in Mamelodi near Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria, along with a further six schools in New Brighton in Port Elizabeth, close to Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant.
One of ChildSafe’s first steps for the project will be to conduct a road safety assessment of the immediate school environment and to consider what traffic calming measures need to be put in place. This will be done in conjunction with local government and relevant school and community bodies.
Schools in the areas that have been identified will be encouraged to work together to create safer school zones for child pedestrians by considering how best to divert traffic away from school gates and reducing speed in such areas. In addition, teachers will be trained to adapt and implement ChildSafe’s locally developed road safety materials for classroom-based education.
Numerous awareness events such as International Walk to School Day, Global Road Safety Week, Transport Month and Day of Remembrance for Victims of Traffic Crashes will be harnessed to create awareness and encourage broader community participation. Parents will be involved in order to advocate the reduction of speed around schools and to model positive pedestrian behaviour.
“South Africa has a deplorable road safety record, and pedestrian injuries and fatalities are the number one killer of young children in our communities in South Africa, yet this can be effectively addressed by changing driving behaviours and raising pedestrian awareness,” says Minesh Bhagaloo, Communications General Manager of Ford South Africa. “Ford is not only committed to the upliftment of the communities we operate in, but we have a specific focus on creating better drivers and increasing awareness regarding road safety through our free Ford Driving Skills for Life driver training programme.
“The ChildSafe Pedestrian Safety Programme is a perfect fit for us with its targeted approach towards introducing practical changes to the pedestrian zones around schools, along with crucial education and awareness initiatives that start with the children and carry through to all road users,” Bhagaloo says. “This is not only an investment in our community and a reaffirmation of our commitment to South Africa and its people. It is also an investment in our youth and therefore our future, because when the children are safer, everyone will be safer.”
According to ChildSafe, its Child Pedestrian Safety Programme is modelled on global pedestrian safety interventions which have been proven to substantially reduce the number of injuries in children as pedestrians. The significant shift in these interventions have been to focus more on changing the environment within which the child lives, rather than expect the child to change their behaviour. It encourages both the change in road design and behaviour change on the side of all road users, drivers and pedestrians.
This comprehensive approach underpins the community’s health literacy, which can be built upon and learned from for generations to come. “Local ownership of the Child Pedestrian Safety Programme is critical to ensure that communities see the importance of preventing pedestrian injuries and deaths in children as part of a long-term community development interest,” Baker explains.
ChildSafe was established in 1978 as a result of the high numbers of children being treated for injuries which are preventable. From its base at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, ChildSafe is recognized as a leading organization on education, awareness raising and advocacy in the area of injury prevention in children, including road traffic injuries.
ChildSafe’s Road Safety Programme consist of Pedestrian Safety, Scholar Transport Safety and Child Road Safety Research. The Pedestrian Safety Project has been implemented for the last five years, working with 190 primary schools in 3 provinces in South Africa. Key partnerships for implementation are with National and Provincials Department of Education and Departments of Transport, Traffic Services of the City of Cape Town, City of Johannesburg and City of Ethukweni.