Message by Christian Salazar-Volkmann, UNICEF Iran Representative, on the occasion of Children's Day
A new challenge for safety and security of children in Iran has arisen over the last years: the country’s often chaotic road traffic.
While Iran has made great strides in recent years to reduce child mortality through vaccinations and a very good primary health care system, the traffic situation in the country increasingly takes its toll from the youngest generation. In 2006, nearly 2,700 children under the age of 15 died and close to 95,000 children and adolescents under the age of 20 received injuries caused by traffic accidents in Iran.
Three behaviour patterns by drivers can be identified as the main causes of these dramatic figures: speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and riding a motorcycle without appropriate protection, such as a helmet. In addition, motorcycle riders often transport children on their vehicles, mostly below the recommended age and, again, without helmets or protective clothing.
Iran’s high accident rates do not only have a direct impact on the crash victims. An often under-reported fact is the indirect cost carried by the country’s children. There is the economic and social burden on families that have to take care of a person who was disabled in an accident. A seriously injured child usually requires both parents to provide its care, which adds the parents’ lost wages to the already lost schooling of the child. Then, there is the loss of a breadwinner, which oftentimes pushes a family closer to or straight into poverty. Studies in South Asia have shown that families that have to take care of a traffic accident victim suffer so much from the economic impact that they have to take their children out of school.
Often overseen is also the important role children can play in helping to find solutions to this dire situation. An obvious intervention lies in the area of education in kindergarten and at primary school. The earlier children learn about safety and train safe behaviours, the better! By setting a good example that can be copied by children, and by participating in role plays with them, parents, teachers and caregivers can also help flag problematic behaviours and find new alternatives.
In addition, children can be included in the improvement of practical security standards. Many European and Asian countries have had positive experiences by working with children and parents in city planning and safer-community initiatives. Similarly, children, teachers and parents can take part in safety assessments of school and kindergarten facilities, such as school buildings, furniture, yards and access roads or paths.
Iran is not alone in this endeavour. Many middle-income countries face growing urbanization, dramatic increases in car production and vehicle traffic, going hand-in-hand with ever more congested roads and higher rates of accidents. However, traffic accidents are, to a large degree, preventable. Many countries have achieved sharp reductions in the number of crashes and the frequency and severity of traffic-related injuries by introducing comprehensive road safety programmes that involved both decision-makers and communities.
This brochure, which forms part of UNICEF Iran’s new road safety programme, outlines a number of basic suggestions that can be taken to make Iran’s roads safer for children. I invite you to introduce these into your day-to-day life, and to learn more about other effective road safety precautions by ordering some of our information material.