‘WATCH’ child road safety pilot launched in South Africa with FIA Foundation funding

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The project brings together a wide range of road safety advocates within the community.
The project brings together a wide range of road safety advocates within the community.

An innovative pilot project to protect South African children on the roads while walking to and from school, combining infrastructure changes with road safety training and education for children, teachers, and the wider community, has been launched at Sobambisana Primary School in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, with the support of the FIA Foundation’s Advocacy Hub.

Rooted in the Safe System Approach, this Walking Safely to School (WATCH) project is a multi-stakeholder project funded by the FIA Foundation, with ChildSafe as the lead implementing partner. The project supports the implementation of a multi-sectoral, multi-level approach to prevent child pedestrian injuries and aims to build safer school zones which can simultaneously address vulnerabilities of child pedestrians around project schools, while creating a model for implementation and expansion across the province and eventually the country.

The project is a pioneering approach to road safety, encompassing road infrastructure modifications and default 30km/h speed limits in school zones to protect pupils on the route to and from school, combined with road safety training, education and awareness for children, teachers and the broader Khayelitsha community. As part of the collaboration, the Department of Transport & Public Works of the Western Cape Government will be providing Junior Traffic Training Centers (JTCCs) at each of the 5 participating primary schools. JTTCs are child-friendly traffic training facilities. The aim of these training facilities is to teach primary school learners about road safety in a play environment, without exposing them to the dangers of real traffic situations.

Road traffic crashes are a major cause of death and serious injury for South African children, especially those living in low-income communities. Child pedestrians are particularly vulnerable. For instance, data from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) for 2019 shows that 22% of all pedestrian deaths in South Africa involved children and young adults aged 19 years or younger.

The launch pad for this project is strengthening and expanding upon previous ChildSafe projects including Safe Schools, Walk This Way and Preventing Road Injuries to Children in South Africa (PRICSA) combining the lessons learnt with active and meaningful collaboration with key government Departments and NGO partners. The experience provides a strong dynamic of policy and advocacy upstream, while on the ground translating into safer roads, safer road users, safer speed, and community participation through a layering of interventions.

A cluster of six schools from low-income neighborhoods in the Western Cape have been selected as a pilot site for the 24-month first phase of the WATCH project. The six schools that are participating are situated along or close to Bangiso Drive in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. There are 5 primary schools namely Ummangaliso, Sobambisana, Sakumlandela, Ntwasahlobo, Ikhusi and 1 high school, Usasazo.

Saul Billingsley, Executive Director of the FIA Foundation said, “The FIA Foundation is pleased to work with ChildSafe to protect South African children on the journey to school. This project will demonstrate the life-saving potential of low-speed interventions, and we hope it will galvanise policymakers in Western Cape and across South Africa to reduce traffic speeds and invest in safer roads for their children.”

The project is part of the FIA Foundation’s Manifesto 2030 Advocacy Hub, a diverse coalition of road safety partners from across the world, in support of the UN’s Streets for Life campaign, working towards low-speed streets below 30km/h where pedestrians for all by 2030, through the delivery of evidence-based, replicable programmes and policy engagement.

Professor Sebastian van As, former ChildSafe Chair, said: “This project is desperately needed to protect our school children. We are suffering from a lack of basic but essential road safety. The kids walking to and from school each day are exposed to fast moving traffic. All too often we see the tragic results in the Trauma Unit of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. This project has great potential to prevent injuries and save lives. Together with our partners we look forward to taking forward this vital work for the Decade of Action for Road Safety”.