Lusaka, Monday, 7th September, 2015. As the new school term begins, today, 7th September 2015, the Zambian Road Safety Trust (ZRST) is urging drivers to use extra caution when travelling in school zones, moving out of driveways and navigating through parking lots and neighbourhoods.

Motorists can expect to see an increase in pedestrian traffic on the roads during morning, lunch and afternoon hours as children walk or bicycle to school or wait for public transport. ZRST reminds everyone to pay attention, slowdown in school zones and to follow traffic rules.

Nationwide, more than one-tenth (11 percent) of all road deaths involved children below the ages of 16 (209 deaths), according to the Zambia Police while pedestrian injuries for this age group totalled 1,389 in 2014.

Not only are children at high risk in vehicles or on bicycles, they are very vulnerable as pedestrians and are often killed or injured in the simple act of walking to and from school.

Children have difficulty seeing in traffic – they need to be tall enough to view the surrounding traffic and they may easily not be seen by motorists.

Children have difficulty judging the distance between themselves and other objects or vehicles, particularly when both are in motion.

Small children have difficulty measuring the size and speeds of vehicles from the sound of the engine as they approach.

Young children are active, energetic and often impulsive. They can move quietly and quickly. They get highly absorbed in whatever they’re doing, including chasing a ball behind a car. They often don’t stop, even if you ask them to.

“Drivers must accept the responsibility for keeping children safe. It is not good enough to plead in mitigation that a child ran out of nowhere – that is what children do and drivers should moderate their speeds accordingly, said Daniel Mwamba, ZRST chairman.

“My message to drivers is that accidents are never solely a child’s fault. A driver who fails to allow for children’s unpredictable behaviour and does not slow down is at fault. Drivers have a responsibility to slow down, and not slowing down when children are close-by is not careful driving – its reckless and dangerous. This is an important time for parents and teachers to remind children of traffic rules and safety.”

Road safety is a shared responsibility, and a key component in achieving the Government’s 50% fatality reduction targets for 2020 is partnership working. The private sector can complement government efforts by encouraging its workforce to adopt a better road safety culture during the school season, while radio stations across the country can contribute to this campaign through making regular announcements cautioning drivers to take extra care when travelling in school zones.

Back-to-School Safety Tips from ZRST:
1. Slow down. Reduce speeds in school zones.
2. Keep your eyes on the road and your mind focused on driving. Pay attention while driving and eliminate dangerous distractions that can increase the risk of being involved in a collision. Store mobile phones out of reach to limit texting, calling, emailing or other cell phone distractions while driving.
3. Reverse responsibly. Check for children on the sidewalk, in driveways, school parking lots and around your vehicle before slowly backing up.
4. Plan for extra time. Drive slowly and choose alternate routes to avoid school zones if possible, or plan ahead and allow for extra travel time.
5.Remember, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be alert, to follow the rules of the road and to have patience to help keep everyone safe travelling to-and-from school.

Let’s make this a safe school team!