Pedestrian safety remains a critical issue in South Africa, with a significant percentage of road deaths attributed to pedestrian fatalities. As schools prepare to reopen, it’s vital for parents and caregivers to educate children on essential pedestrian safety practices. In South Africa, injury remains the leading cause of death in healthy children over the age of five, with 32% of injury-related deaths due to motor vehicle-related crashes. 

The journey to school remains a challenge for most learners in South Africa. Children residing in lower-income communities are particularly vulnerable to injury or death due to the high rate of motor vehicle crashes on South African roads. A pedestrian who is struck by a car travelling between 50 and 70 kilometres per hour has an 80% chance of being killed.

Parents and caregivers play a pivotal role in instilling safe pedestrian practices in children from a young age. Understanding and emphasising responsible behaviour, such as looking right, left, and right again before crossing, using designated crossing areas, and promoting reflective clothing, are vital. Educating children on pedestrian risks, avoiding distractions while walking, and staying on pavements or near road edges when footpaths are unavailable are fundamental safety measures.

As children prepare to return to school, parents can empower them with the knowledge and skills necessary for safe road practices. Encouraging children to obey road signs, traffic lights, and use designated crossing areas instils responsibility. Emphasising the importance of vigilance while driving around informal settlements, staying alert in adverse weather conditions, and advocating for improved road safety measures further strengthens children’s safety on the roads.

Various factors significantly heighten the risk of pedestrian fatalities in South Africa. Reckless and lawless pedestrians, who take hazardous risks by darting across roads and freeways, misjudging vehicle speeds, present a clear danger. Additionally, distracted pedestrians, individuals disregarding traffic alerts due to distractions like cell phones or music, compound the peril on the roads. Furthermore, pedestrians disregarding or disobeying traffic signals, crossing against red or amber lights, pose a significant risk to themselves and drivers. Poorly visible pedestrians, not wearing high-visibility or reflective attire while walking on roadsides, increase the likelihood of accidents. Moreover, pedestrians who choose to walk on roads rather than designated paths, especially on the left side, where visibility of approaching vehicles is compromised, create dangerous situations. Instances of pedestrian inattentiveness, particularly observed in children chasing objects onto roads, contribute to the overall safety risk. Lack of supervision, with young pedestrians left unsupervised at roadsides, adding to their vulnerability.

Let us unite to prioritise pedestrian safety, ensuring a secure journey for South African children to and from school.