Children and young people are at significant risk on our roads. Road accidents are the leading cause of death and the second most frequent cause of hospitalisation among children across the world. According to the 2013 edition of the Global Status Report on Road Safety, published by the World Health Organisation, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people, aged 15–29 years. In Namibia, the most at risk group is between the ages of 16 and 35 years.
As a result of the magnitude of the impact that road traffic fatalities and injuries have on our people, the National Road Safety Council started in 2009 with the aim of integrating road safety into our national school curriculum for Basic Education. We were requested by the National Institute for Educational Development to undertake a gap analysis, which led to the decision for cross-curricular integration. Cross-curricular integration means that the teaching of road safety will be done through topics in other subjects such as social studies, environmental studies, languages, art and mathematics. Cross-curricular teaching involves a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles, and values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The disciplines may be related through a central theme, issue, problem, process, topic, or experience.
In terms of the different basic education phases, the Junior Primary Phase will deal with passenger and pedestrian safety, safe places to play as well as cycling. This is in regard to knowing the dangerous areas or intersections that they have to cross to get to school. Part of the topics within these manuals also includes activities for the classroom as well as for exploring the traffic environment to allow learners to gain important practical experience. It promotes learning at home by engaging parents and carers in teaching their children to become safer road users.
The resource comprises three Teacher Training Manuals, one Learner Activity Booklet, one Vocabulary Booklet and two posters per grade as part of the teaching aids for the Junior Primary Phase.
These are products of a collaborative effort between the NRSC and the National Institute for Educational Development, through rigorous meetings and presentations involving approvals and vetting from the Curriculum Coordinating Committee and the Curriculum Panels.
Apart from the teaching material, we have delivered training to school management, heads of departments, and the teachers for the specific grades across the country in terms of implementing the integration of road safety education.
EFFECTIVENESS AND VALUE OF ROAD SAFETY EDUCATION
The effectiveness and value of road safety education versus the effectiveness and value of engineering measures or application of traffic law enforcement is often disputed. Road safety practitioners generally acknowledge that none of these is a solution by itself and that the one should support the other. The raising of awareness of road safety, the increasing of knowledge and the improvement of skills necessary to behave safely in the road traffic environment must primarily be done through road safety education. It cannot be expected of engineering or enforcement initiatives to do what can only be done through education. At the same time one group on its own cannot be expected to reach national road safety targets. An integrated approach should involve the engineering, enforcement, employment, education, and promotion (including social marketing) fields.
There are those, however, who are concerned that educational programmes had produced relatively small impact on behaviour and this is countered by supporters of road safety education by pointing out that, in the past, education had been provided without the essential component of skills development. Even so, they do recognise that even the best education and skills training cannot teach children to cope with all types of traffic situations.
Before they become adults, children at some point need to have learned and mastered appropriate road safety skills, because without them, they are not likely to spontaneously understand traffic and know how to proceed safely.
THE AIM OF ROAD SAFETY EDUCATION
The aim of road safety education is to positively influence the behaviour of all road users by:
- promoting and developing appropriate
- knowledge and understanding of traffic
- rules and road safety concepts
- developing and improving appropriate
- skills of all categories of road users
- improving road users’ attitudes towards and knowledge of taking risks in the traffic situation
- improving knowledge of the causes and
- consequences of road crashes
- creating greater awareness of being a
- courteous and responsible road user
- promoting respect for traffic laws and the basic rules of using the road
THE LIMITATIONS OF THE YOUNG ROAD USER
The developmental theorist, Piaget, studied the development of children’s understanding through observing them, talking and listening to them. The essence of his theory is that all children pass through the same sequence of developmental stages. Each developmental stage is characterised by distinct changes in the child’s capacity to process information about the environment. The stages of development have been interpreted to suggest that children are unable to be safe pedestrians until they have reached a relatively late stage of development, termed by Piaget the formal operational stage. The formal operational stage is characterised by being able to think logically about abstract propositions and children do not reach this stage until they reach the age of 11 years. It implies that children in the developmental stages prior to the formal operational stage are not capable of being safe pedestrians.
Child developmentalists suggest that children are unsafe road users because they are unable to sense fear or danger, they have limited physical capabilities such as peripheral vision and the ability to judge the direction of sound, and that children tend to be spontaneous, unpredictable and adventurous. It is argued that children do not have the ability to correlate speed and distance to cross the road, and compute the time available for crossing, as this is complicated and calls for a high level of cognitive abilities.
Road safety practitioners should take these limitations into consideration when developing education and training programmes to ensure that not more is expected of them than what they are capable of doing in the specific developmental phase they are in.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
According to the Association of Southern African National Road Agencies (ASANRA) road safety education programmes must be developed at a national level and implemented at a local level. The development and implementation of a successful road safety education programme will follow a process focusing on the following:
- The establishment of a coordinating body made up of representatives from education, law enforcement, health services, road design and construction, and road safety management;
- The development of a long-term implementation plan;
- The identification of a key champion responsible for implementation;
- The development a road safety education programme directed at the progressive development of young road users that can be integrated into the existing school curriculum;
- The inclusion of skills development components that will enhance the knowledge improvement programme;
- The development of a programme that will enable parents to assist with the skills development of young road users;
- The development of a monitoring programme to assess progress and results;
They further propose that the following key design
elements should be considered:
- the programme should start at pre-school level and run throughout the learner’s school life;
- base the education on practical training in a simulated environment;
- use teaching methods which follow the principles of child development;
- education and training must be regular;
- frequent and combined with practice;
- the programme should be tailored to take account of education, cultural, transport and financial circumstances;
- road safety education should receive rightful attention in the school programme;
- the school programme should be enhanced by community programmes.
Asian Development Bank (1999). Road Safety Education of Children, Report 4.6 of Road Safety Guidelines for the Asian and Pacific Region. Manila, Philippines
Coutts, M., and Styles, T. (2004). The potential for early childhood learning to influence road safety. ARRB Transport Research. Australia.
Global road safety partnership. Road Safety Education in Schools: saving young lives and limbs. In GRSP Focus. Geneva, Switzerland.
Grayson, G. B. (1981). The identification of training objectives: What shall we tell the children? In Accident and Prevention, 13 (3): 169-173
National Road Safety Committee (2006). Road safety Education Strategic Framework, New Zealand.
OECD Road Transport Research (1998). Safety of Vulnerable Road Users. Scientific Expert Group on the Safety of Vulnerable Road Users (RS7), Paris, France pp. 19-45, pp. 129-163
Piaget, J. (1970). Piaget’s Theory. In P.H. Mussen (ed.), Carmichael’s Manual of Child Psychology, 3rd edition, volume 1, Wiley: New York
Rothengatter, JA (1986). Evaluation of Road Safety Education Programmes.VK 86-07. Traffic Research Centre, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. The Netherlands.
Sandels, S. (1975). Children in Traffic. Elek Books Ltd.: London.
Sayer IA, CJ Palmer, G Murray and J Guy (1997). Improving Road Safety Education in Developing Countries: Ghana. TRL 265. Crowthorne, England, UK
Sayer IA, A Quimby, G Murray and J Guy (2000). Improving Road Safety Education (RSE) in Developing Countries: India. TRL 442. Crowthorne, England, UK
Thomson, J.A., Tolmie, A., Foot, H.C. and McLaren, B. (1996). Child development and the aims of road safety education: a review and analysis. Department for Transport: United Kingdom.
Transport Research Laboratory’ (TRL) Overseas Road Note 17 (1997): Road Safety Education in Developing Countries: Guidelines for Good Practice in Primary Schools.
Young, D. S., and Lee, D.N. (1987). Training children in road crossing skills using a roadside simulation. Accident Analysis and prevention, 19: 327-341.