On average more than 500 children are killed on the world’s roads each day. Road safety education is therefore vital for any child or young person. However, what about those children who live on the street, who have nowhere to go to learn even the most basic road safety skills and who are the most exposed of all road users?
In Georgia it is estimated that around 2,500 children are living on the streets in the country’s biggest cities: Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Rustavi. But, like in most countries, official data does not record the number of street children who are involved in road traffic collisions. Yet, as any resident or visitor to most big cities around the world can attest, the presence of children begging for help in the street (most of them near traffic lights, road crossings, and between lanes of traffic) puts both themselves and other road users at serious risk.
These children, just like any others, therefore, need to know how to keep themselves as safe as possible while they are on or near the road. As such we are very proud to be supporting our Georgian partners, the Partnership for Road Safety (PfRS), along with the FIA Foundation and UNICEF, to initiate the first-ever evidence-based strategy for protecting street children from road risk.
Initial survey data collected by the PfRS of over 50 street children (aged 8-17) at day centres in Tbilisi and Rustavi has revealed the extremely high levels of risk these exceptionally vulnerable kids face on a daily basis, and reinforced just how urgent the need is to provide even the most basic road safety education.
For example, over 60 per cent of the children attested to being out on the street for 3 hours or more everyday, mainly at night. There was a very low level of awareness in terms of knowing how cross roads in areas where there are no crossings, or how to walk safely in areas with no pavements. Some did not know how to read traffic lights, or even which side to look first while crossing the road. While any information about wearing bright clothing at night or using reflectors was entirely new. It was perhaps unsurprising therefore that 25 per cent admitted to having been involved in a road traffic collision at some point in their lives.
As such, the next phase of the project, which is currently on-going, is fulfilling a vital need by offering road safety training and teaching to street children in Georgia.
So far twelve sessions have been held at Day & Night Centres in Tbilisi, Rustavi and Kutaisi, reaching over 300 children aged between 8-18 years old. As many of the children do not know how to read or write, the PfRS and UNICEF have developed dedicated visual and activity-based methods by which to teach core road safety messages – focussing on real life examples, social responsibility and the children’s role in the road safety process, including awareness raising on traffic rules and correct road behaviour.
It’s been great to hear reports that the children have been enthusiastically participating in all the activities and discussions and are eager to tell stories of their own road safety experiences! At the end of the each session, they are being presented with reflectors and other accessories designed to keep them safe on the road. Particularly at night when they are most vulnerable.
As this project develops, we hope to see many more initiatives aimed at protecting street children from road risk, not just in Georgia but worldwide. As such, the project will also produce a set of recommendations that can be taken forward by policy makers, influencers and key stakeholders to advocate for reforms to protect street children more generally. So keep checking back for more updates!