Focusing on disseminating science-driven insights to drive awareness of key safety threats and promote the adoption of safer behaviors to mitigate threats, Underwriters Laboratories and World Resources Institute (WRI) Ross Center for Sustainable Cities undertook a study titled ‘Safer Schools Commutes – a data driven study to reducing child fatalities’ by identifying road safety challenges faced by school going children in the city of Bengaluru.

The National Safety Science Quiz started in 2013 which was primarily envisioned to create awareness among school children around everyday public safety challenges, road safety, electrical fire hazards, cyber security, and other such challenges and mediate on solutions to address them is where it all began. The Safer Schools Commutes – a data driven study to reducing child fatalities stemmed from the research project Advancing Child Safety in India - Implementation is the key.

Though road safety is considered a major component of sustainable development, India has been a witness to high road fatality rates. Particularly in the case of school-going children who are extremely vulnerable on the roads, road traffic accidents have proved to be a major cause for concern. It is the leading cause of accidental deaths in children aged under 18 in India by claiming over 15,000 lives each year.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data from 2019, road crashes were responsible for 24% of all deaths due to unnatural causes for children under the age of 14. Considering how this age group is far more vulnerable to traffic crashes there is a need to bring several stakeholders together to take collective action to ensure the safety of this vulnerable group as India has the highest population of children under the age of 14 years in the world.

The pilot study assessed the threats faced by school-going children on roads by delving into the First Information Reports (FIR) filed with the police as a dataset which was transformed into a spatial dataset. This study has the potential to be replicated by major cities across the globe to curb accidents around schools and make sure roads are made safer for children.

A web-based geographic information system (GIS) that spatially represents the safety risks in the vicinities of schools and informs stakeholders of their roles and responsibilities was developed. The tool helps in assessing safety of school children by types of roads around schools, public transit facilities, pedestrian and other non-motorized transport infrastructure, traffic speeds, and traffic density to bring together various data sets, onto a single platform, so that they could be viewed together and facilitate stakeholders to take a unifying approach towards problem solving.

Providing safer access to schools and ensuring zero road fatalities of children while going to school is a shared responsibility. To know more about the tool, contact Lakshmi.nair@ul.org, Kaustubh.Chuke@wri.org

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