X Marks the Spot: No child should die going to and from school

Oneil Williams was just six years-old when he was killed while crossing the road on his way home from school in St. Ann. The last his father Devon saw of his son was a small hand waving goodbye.

What compounded this tragedy was that the school Oneil was attending, Brown’s Town Primary School, was chosen by his conscientious father so that he and his brother would face less traffic on their journey.

The Williams family’s loss is part of a wider pattern of accidents occurring on Jamaican roads close to schools. This a tragedy that repeats itself on a regular basis. During the years 2000-2010, a total of 27,000 accidents occurred within 100 metres of about 200 schools.

Every child has right to safe journey to and from school

A U-Report poll conducted this month showed that 75 per cent of youth feel unsafe travelling on Jamaica’s roads.

UNICEF believes that every child has the right to a safe journey to and from school. That is why we are investing US$1 million over three years, thanks to funds from the FIA Foundation and ABERTIS, to support the X Marks the Spot campaign implemented by partner NGO the JN Foundation, which emphasizes the improvement of road safety around schools.

X Marks the Spot is assessing the risk for thousands of children on their journey to school. Over the next two years it will provide ‘safe system’ infrastructure solutions, such as improved crossings, to address road traffic injury in a number of schools in key locations.

The first of a a minimum of 18 schools to benefit will be Hazard Primary School in Clarendon, which will receive an upgraded school crossing zone to be ready for back to school in September.

At least 18 schools to receive road safety improvements

Globally, UNICEF is working to help make cities more fit for children and road safety is essential to this. It is directly linked to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3, to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; and also Goal 11, to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Jamaica has agreed to join a target to reduce road traffic fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020. Our work in Jamaica is an example of major investments being made in three countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region – Jamaica, Cuba and Paraguay – and will be used as a model for additional work in other countries.

We look forward to helping more school zones become safer for children and their parents and to increasing advocacy around this critical national and global issue. Jamaica has recently passed its revised Road Traffic Act but still has a few road safety conventions to sign.

Much work is to be done beginning with the soon-to-be-launched report that analysed road traffic accident data and identified the schools most in need. There will also be a media awareness campaign; expansion of JN Foundation’s in-school road safety programme; and training for transport providers.

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