Thu, 27 May 2004

20% of monthly traffic victims children, say Jakarta Police

Evi Mariani, Jakarta

Around 50 children in the Greater Jakarta area are killed in traffic accidents every month, or an estimated 20 percent of total victims, according to Jakarta Police data.

"The number is devastating. As part of our efforts to minimize the number, we have tried to foster knowledge on road safety among children," city police head of traffic Sr. Comr. Sulistyo Ishak said on Wednesday.

The latest data shows that 268 people died in traffic accidents from January to April, while 536 suffered serious injuries and 440 suffered minor injuries. Sulistyo did not provide details on the number of child fatalities.

The city police have long ran a quarterly program called Police, Friends of Children, under which they invite kindergarten and elementary school students to headquarters to teach them about traffic signs and regulations and the work of traffic police.

"Besides this program, we also cooperate with schools in road safety campaigns. However, it will be better if it is included in the national curriculum," Sulistyo said.

A team of two to three traffic police visits schools every day to disseminate information on traffic regulations and safety.

The police's efforts in promoting road safety, especially to children, however, has yet to attain the desired effect.

In actuality, many parents seem do not to be aware of road safety, even in regards their own children.

Throughout the city, for example, entire families can be seen riding motorcycles, including their children -- even infants -- although this is a blatant traffic violation. Traffic regulations limit the capacity of motorcycles to two riders, including the driver.

Many motorcyclists also do not wear helmets as required by law, nor do they provide helmets for their children. Even if the adults are wearing helmets, they sometimes neglect helmets for their children.

The parents' driving is also undisciplined, and it is rare that motorists install special car seats for their toddlers or specially designed safety belts for children. Many fathers even seat their children on their laps while driving, with the child holding onto the steering wheel for support.

A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) issued this year on traffic injury prevention cited a study in the United States that the use of child safety belts had made a significant impact in reducing the rate of child fatalities in traffic accidents: by 71 percent among infants and by 54 percent among young children.

However, the WHO report also showed that the use of such special equipment was popular only in high-income countries such as Australia, where the usage rate of toddler's car seats and child safety belts reaches 90 percent, and in the United States at 86 percent.

Road Safety is No Accident was the United Nations' theme for World Health Day 2004, which fell on April 7.