Through kids’ eyes, a view of road safety

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More than 1,600 children from around the world participated in a photography project, designed in part to educate children about traffic safety.
I was surprised to learn recently that the second leading cause of death among children aged 10-14 in this world has nothing to do with disease or lack of access to health care. Traffic accidents result in the death of more than 500 children every day, according to the World Health Organization. More than 85 percent of accidents happen in the developing world, where most children killed or hurt are pedestrians.

An organization called Safe Kids Worldwide reached out to educate children on pedestrian safety with an interesting project called Photovoice: Children’s Perspective on Road Traffic Safety. The project put digital cameras in the hands of more than 1,600 young students in seven countries -- including China, Korea and the Philippines.

The pictures are interesting and direct, showing the important issue through kids’ eyes. Many show kids walking or riding bikes in busy streets, sidewalks blocked with vendors or parked cars, and other hazardous conditions for pedestrians. The photos are each summarized best by the kids who took them: “Children playing in the streets are prone to accidents. They should be provided proper playgrounds,” said one child. Another child, from Korea, said, “Cars are parked where many children walk to and from school. This car is parked on the sidewalk and so the only choice is to walk through the roadway.” Visit the project’s website to see a sample of the work.

Every year, traffic accidents cause an increasing number deaths and injuries among people of all ages in developing countries -- both in the East Asia and Pacific region and worldwide. Accidents cost Thailand, for example, an estimated US$7.2 billion from 2005-07, according to World Bank research. In China, at least 100,000 people are killed in crashes each year, some estimates show. While the numbers are rising in developing countries, they are falling in high-income countries. Teaching people about traffic safety is one clear method to combat these trends, and I think that efforts like the Safe Kids photo project are a step in the right direction.

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