28 February 2012 

Children at risk on urban roads, warns UNICEF 

Children must be placed at the centre of urban decision-making, including in road design and transport provision, a new report from UNICEF recommends.

The UN Children’s Fund, in its 2012 ‘State of the World’s Children’ report, focuses on the realities of urban life for the world’s young. The report highlights road safety as an area needing urgent attention, warning that “road accidents kill more of the world’s young people than any other single cause”. Lower income children are particularly at risk because they often live alongside fast roads and have to play or work in the street.

The report highlights the role improved urban planning and development can play in contributing to the Millennium Development Goals, and underlines that safe roads for children must be part of the solution.

The UNICEF report says:

“Urban planning needs to ensure that children can move safely within their environments. Road traffic injuries claim a disproportionate number of young lives in low- and middle-income countries. It is common for high speed roads to be routed close to schools or through residential areas. Cities must be designed in a way that reduces risk to children. Segregating traffic and reducing speed can save lives”.

The report also highlights the proven casualty reductions when safe and sustainable policies are put in place: “Safe public transport and well-regulated traffic are vital components of a city fit for children. Successful initiatives in Colombia, Sweden and the Netherlands have combined car-free areas, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian routes, and public transport to reduce injuries and deaths”. 

Welcoming the ‘State of the World’s Children’ report Saul Billingsley, Director of the Road Safety Fund, said:

“This UNICEF report is timely and welcome. It reinforces the argument for road safety to be included within the international community’s efforts to achieve development goals. It demonstrates why safe mobility should be at the heart of the urban sustainability debate at Rio+20. The Road Safety Fund is already investing in pilot programmes supporting safe and sustainable urban mobility, as well as evidence-based interventions targeting child safety on the roads. We encourage donors to work with us to help bring these initiatives to scale”.

Read the UNICEF ‘2012 State of the World’s Children’ report here >