The adage, ‘Catch them young,’ is associated with imbibing children with values. This dictum holds good when it comes to educating school children on road safety and making them change agents for safety and influencing the larger citizenry. A step in this direction was taken through the establishment of the first School Safety Zone at St. Joseph’s School (CBSE), Bengaluru.
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The School Safety Zone is a result of 3Ms’ initiative Young Change Agents for Road Safety (YCARS) in partnership with Concern for Road and Pedestrian Safety (CoRPS) and United Way of Bengaluru. The initiative was launched on 19th November in the presence of MLA N A Harris, Khalendar Khan (Road Safety Consultant, BBMP), Pawan Kumar (Head, Transportation Safety Business, 3M India), Sunish Jauhar, Founder of CoRPS and Fr Martin (St Joseph’s School).
A School Safety Zone is the area around a school where traffic and speed of the vehicles in the school environment are regulated using signage systems. Globally schools fall under the vulnerable road user zone and according to statistics, road traffic injuries account for 37-38 percent of deaths among 0-14-year-olds and 62-64% among 14-18-year-old children.
National Disaster Management Guidelines – School Safety Policy 2016 issued by the National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India, emphasises ‘School Safety’. It is defined as “the creation of safe environments for children starting from their homes to their schools and back.” It includes safety from natural disasters, violence, man-made risks, transportation and other related emergencies, pandemics, and environmental threats, among others that can affect children adversely. It asks schools to conduct safety audits to identify hazards outside the school premises, including road safety.
The YCARS programme includes a four-day workshop with students from classes 7-10. It enables them in viewing road as a shared space and inculcates in them empathy for other road users.
Students start with a safety audit around their school to ascertain the problems such as potholes. Next, the students take a video simulation module where they view the problems of the road through a driver’s perspective. This enables them to identify hazards on the road.
Armed with this knowledge, they are encouraged to come up with improvements for the safety of their fellow students. They are asked to plot problem areas or Safe Zones around their schools on maps (making a sketch/ wish list) and suggest other measures such as signage or speed breakers in appropriate points. These inputs are gathered by safety engineers at 3M and implemented using safety techniques such as raised pavement markers, road studs, fluorescent reflective signages, and reflective bollards, among others.
Establishment of safety zones around schools in Bengaluru is a critical need because according to a report by NIMHANS titled ADVANCING CHILD SAFETY IN INDIA: Implementation is the key, schools in the city fared poorly in maintaining safety levels on roads adjacent to schools. It includes lack of speed limit display, school zone signage, footpaths, pothole free roads, zebra crossing, designated dropping/pick up and zones supervised lane crossing. Only 11.5% had speed limits displayed, and only 17% of schools had roads which showed school zone signage. Following the publication of the report, the Department of Public Instruction, and the city police had announced that safety audits will be conducted in government, aided and private schools across the city.
To date, the YCARS programme has been conducted in five schools in Pune, four in Bengaluru- with one more in the pipeline. 3M is targeting to reach 15-20 schools across five cities – Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Pune – in the next one year, and upto 100 schools across 30 cities in subsequent years.