The right way: children first | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

The right way: children first

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A new report published by the FIA Foundation and UNICEF has revealed the high financial costs that burden the families of children involved in road traffic collisions in the developing world, and calls for urgent action to prevent these accidents occurring.

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Children die every day on public highways. Road traffic collisions are the global leading cause of children over the age of ten losing their lives prematurely. For those who do survive, the financial burden of their recovery on their families can be crippling.

A safe route to school is often taken for granted by some people around the globe, but many young students are exposed to danger and death as they make that journey on a daily basis. A new report jointly produced by the FIA Foundation and UNICEF has revealed that injuries sustained in road traffic accidents exacerbates child poverty and imposes a severe burden upon the young and the poor across low and middle-income countries.

The report, titled ‘Rights of Way’, concluded that this problem must be addressed as a global sustainable development priority. Thanks to the work of the FIA Foundation, this topic will be incorporated into the UN’s upcoming Habitat III conference, which will agree on the New Urban Agenda, a document to shape and guide urban development for the next 20 years.


The cycle of tragedy is relatively simple: children from poor families are vulnerable to road traffic injury. When an accident occurs, they suffer severe and protracted effects; and too often, victims and their families are locked into yet more struggles with poverty. Globally, road traffic injury serves as a brake on poverty eradication and development.

“Poverty eradication is a core objective of the sustainable development and new urban agendas,” said Saul Billingsley, Executive Director of the FIA Foundation when the report was launched. “But if we are to make progress in combatting poverty, we must address road traffic injury – the leading global killer of children in their second decade of life. As this report highlights, the solutions are readily available. As a global policy priority we must promote sustainable mobility as matter of social equity, and every child should be afforded a safe and healthy route to and from school.”

The report, which was launched at a Habitat III Prepcom event co-hosted by the FIA Foundation, UNICEF and the Government of Brazil, contained case studies from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Nairobi in Kenya and Accra in Ghana, as well as six cities across Latin America and Asia, which laid bare the costs road traffic injury places on families and children living in poverty. For Dar es Salaam’s urban poor, road traffic fatality rates among children in 22 schools surveyed by NGO Amend are at 45 out of every 100,000 across the population, a level exceeding other major public health crises.

In Nairobi, families living in poor neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city faced medical costs twenty times their monthly wage following a road traffic injury. While families hit by road traffic injury in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, India, Indonesia and Thailand experienced loses of income of typically of over 50 per cent, struggled to retain employment, faced a severe drain on living standards and loss of education.

‘Rights of Way’ draws on work from members of a new partnership established by the FIA Foundation - the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility. Partners contributing to the report included the World Resources Institute through its ‘Cities Safer By Design’ principles and the United Nations Environment Programme’s ‘Share the Road initiative’, which was developed with the FIA Foundation. The Amend NGO and International Road Assessment Programme also provided case study and research material.


The report established that as a response, the international community must focus on the objective of a safe and healthy journey to and from school for every child by 2030 as a priority within Habitat III’s upcoming New Urban Agenda document and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This involves ensuring safe routes to school for all children, with pavements that are fit for walking, safe road design and effective speed management.

It also suggested prioritising pedestrians and cyclists in urban planning and increasing investments in safe infrastructure for non-motorised transport to encourage active, low carbon, mobility, as well as improving vehicle safety on school journeys with helmets for motorcycle passengers, seatbelts and safety checks for school buses. Encouraging policies to address wider health impacts from transportation, reducing vehicle emissions and improving air quality were also recommended.

“Tackling road traffic injury must be a priority in the New Urban Agenda,” said Carlos Cuenca, Head of the Division of Social Issues of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Brazil. “I was pleased that the second Global High Level Conference on Road Safety, hosted by Brazil, addressed child safety as well as important issues of sustainable urban mobility.”

During the Habitat III Prepcom, representatives from the FIA Foundation- UNICEF partnership on child road traffic injury held a plenary session that included coverage of the report’s advocacy. “Children can be the cornerstone of social change, inclusion and sustainable development,” said FIA Foundation Deputy Director Avi Silverman in the submission on behalf of the partnership.

“Only once we guarantee the wellbeing of children is it possible to break the cycle of poverty and inequity. The New Urban Agenda must prioritise the protection of vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists in policy frameworks and design principles. And a core part of this must be the protection of all children, including the poor and vulnerable.”

Also in attendance at the event to launch the ‘Rights of Way’ report were key partners in the Child Health Initiative who added to the calls for action. On behalf of the WRI, Holger Dalkmann, its Director of Strategy and Global Policy, discussed the ‘Cities Safer by Design’ report and the efforts underway to implement its recommendations for prioritising walking and cycling in urban design, while Brian Sriprahastuti, Senior Manager at Save the Children Indonesia, highlighted the need for sustainable mobility to protect children in South East Asia. 

This article comes from FIA Magazine Auto #16. You can read the full magazine here.