What you need to know:
- According to a Nation Newsplex investigation, one in every five people who die from road injuries in Kenya is aged below 20 years.
- The National Transport and Safety Authority shows that child and teenage victims of road accidents make up to 21 percent of road carnage victims.
- The World Health Organisation says that among children aged 5 to 9 years, road traffic injury is the fourth cause of death globally.
In August 2018, nine pupils from St Gabriel Primary School in Mwingi died when their school bus collided head-on with a lorry about two kilometres from Mwingi town. Thirty-two other pupils sustained serious injuries. In January 2021, 26 pupils from Kaaga Academy sustained multiple injuries after their school bus overturned. The driver failed to negotiate a sharp bend along the Kaaga bypass. The bus had 51 pupils on board. In March 2021, a speeding school van hit four pupils and killed one girl. The pupils from Nduma Primary School were walking home from school when the driver of the van from Ken Academy lost control and hit them.
However, it is not just school buses that expose children to road accidents. In May 2021, three children and their parents died after the vehicle they were traveling in collided head-on with a fuel tanker at Taru area along the Mombasa — Nairobi highway. The man was in his early forties, his wife was in her early thirties, their two daughters were aged 10 and 7, and their last born son was 2 years old.
According to a Nation Newsplex investigation, one in every five people who die from road injuries in Kenya is aged below 20 years. At the same time, data from the National Transport and Safety Authority shows that child and teenage victims of road accidents make up to 21 percent of road carnage victims. The World Health Organisation says that among children aged 5 to 9 years, road traffic injury is the fourth cause of death globally. Among children aged 10 to 14, road accidents is ranked as the third cause of death, while road accidents is the leading cause of death among children aged 15 to 17. The WHO report on road safety for children also says that boys account for nearly twice as many road traffic deaths as girls globally. “This higher risk for boys is due to their greater exposure to traffic and their tendency to take more risks compared to girls,” the report says.
The WHO recommends that you should select the right seat for your child according to their age. This could be an infant car seat, a child car seat, or a booster seat, all with seat belts. “When compared to using seat belts alone, booster seats reduce the risk of children aged 4 to 7 from sustaining serious road accident injury by up to 60 percent,” the WHO says in its road safety guidelines for children. Although your child can safely travel in the front seat of your personal or family car, it’s safe for them to travel in the back seat.
Resist the temptation to fix your car with a second-hand baby seat and make sure your child’s seat fits your car with ease and corresponds with their height and weight. “If your child uses a school bus regularly, see to it that the vehicle has proper seats for children his age. Ensure that children are correctly put in their seats on every journey – long or short,” advises child therapist Gloria Wandeto.
If you are traveling with a newborn or a child aged below one, the National Transport and Safety Authority recommends that they use a rear-facing baby seat. “Children under one year should sit in rear-facing, child safety seats which should be placed in the backseat of the car,” says the NTSA. “Should you travel with your child in the front seat, ensure that the airbag is turned off because it can seriously injure the child in case of an accident,” adds Gloria.
Only consider allowing your child to use an adult seat belt when they attain a height of 135 cm and above. However, if you had installed a booster seat for your child, they can continue to use it because booster seats can be adjusted upwards and outwards. If you find that the adult seat belt does not lie on the child’s hips, chest and shoulder, and instead lies on their tummy and neck, keep them in their booster car seats.
When in or around a car park, teach your child to always be in the close company of a supervising adult. “A reversing driver may fail to see your small child if the child is behind the car and is below the height visible from the car’s rear or side mirror. Learn to hold and let them always be held in car parks just as when on the road,” says Gloria.
School bus safety tips
- Be at the designated bus stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives.
- Keep away from the road and stray as far away as possible when waiting for the bus to arrive.
- Teach her to always pick a suitable seat and maintain herself there for the duration of the ride.
- Teach her to keep their head, hands, and feet inside the bus at all times and to never play with the emergency exit door.
- If you can, always walk your child across the street for them to get to the bus if they have to. If you can’t, teach them to always wait and make sure that the bus has come to a complete stop before venturing forward.
- When traveling alone, teach them to always stay seated, face forward, and keep their feet and backpacks out of the bus aisle.
- Before alighting, let them make sure the bus has completely stopped.
- Teach them to wait for a signal from the driver before crossing the street and to always look both ways before stepping into the street to make sure there are no cars attempting to pass the bus.
- Your child will learn about pedestrian safety by watching you. Use safe behaviour and be cautious when around cars, car parks, roads, and footpaths. If you have taught your child about stopping and looking right, looking left and crossing only when it’s safe to do so, practice this in her presence and let her observe.
- Hold your child’s hand and teach them about the safest points of crossing a road. For example, don’t cross the road at undesignated areas.
- Make road safety a regular topic as the child grows. remember that children need road and traffic assistance up until at least the age of 12.