New infrastructure, better legislation and greater awareness leads to safer school zones across Georgia
The increase of child casualties remains a significant problem on Georgian roads. In 2016/17, forty children under the age of 16 were killed as a result of road traffic collisions in the country.
In the capital, Tbilisi, as well as across the rest of the country, a child’s safety cannot be guaranteed as they make the journey to and from school every day. Many school zones lack the infrastructure needed to protect children from road risk. A lack of adequate crossings or speed reduction measures (including enforcement), and inappropriate speed limits – exceeding the recommended 30km/h – all contribute to an environment in which children are put at risk.
To address this issue, our EASST partner Partnership for Road Safety (PfRS) has been working directly with schools across the country to help them assess the safety of their nearby roads, and advocate for improving infrastructure and creating routes to school that prioritise child safety.
Using the NACTO Global Street Design Guide and following European standards, PfRS has assessed the road infrastructure around 14 schools to date (with a further 16 scheduled for the near future) and reported the individual results for each school to the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and the Roads Department of Georgia.
To keep the issue on the agenda, PfRS organised a series working meetings with both Ministries as well as representatives of the Tbilisi City Hall Transport Department, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Patrol Police Department. The meetings have been tremendously successful and have led to improved infrastructure near most of the schools examined – including 8 new raised zebra crossings and three sets of traffic lights being installed already. As a result of the cooperation with the Roads Department, speed limits have also been reduced from 40km/h to 30 km/h on the main highways and central roads in Tbilisi and signs for a 30km/h speed limit have been installed near school zones.
On the success of the meetings, Mr. Mamuka Patashuri of the Roads Department said:
“The traffic safety assessment report presented by the Partnership for Road Safety is a very important document that indents to create the safe school zone for children. Our Department plans to work on this direction with the Patrol Police Department in order to strengthen enforcement for keeping the speed limit near schools”.
This is a huge commitment, which has been further backed up by the involvement of the Partnership for Road Safety in the working group of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to examine road safety legislation. Through its position, PfRS has initiated a number traffic law amendments including: the mandatory presence of zebra crossings outside school gates; a parking ban near schools and on sidewalks; and tougher penalties for speeding and drink driving. These amendments have already been adopted by Parliament and are due to begin being implemented soon.
The interest from schools and parents towards this child safety initiative has been unexpectedly high; with many contributing recommendations on how they think their school zones can be improved. In addition to working on the schools’ infrastructure issues, PfRS has also been working with teachers and school children to increase their road safety awareness using the EASST Road Safety Education Pack. They have trained around 700 children across the 14 schools targeted so far and organised dedicated Train the Trainer programmes for teachers so that they can cascade the learning to every child year after year.
At only six months in to a year long project, the achievements made so far are remarkable. The project has already gained significant media coverage in Georgia with PfRS taking part in no fewer than four radio interviews, six TV appearances, and two media conferences. The project directly supports the Global Child Health Initiative’s aim to ensure a safe and healthy journey to school for every child by 2030, and we look forward to seeing the results of the remaining schools to be examined and see more children’s lives saved on the roads.