The Ministry of Education has announced a school road safety week on road safety. As a result of a discussion between the Sri Lanka Medical Association's Road Accident Prevention Expert Committee and the Minister of Education Dr. Susil Premajayanth and Ministry of Education officials, this road safety week aimed at school children will be held in conjunction with the United Nations Global Road Safety Week from May 12 to 16. This road safety week was announced as the first step in implementing a vision to educate children, inculcate road discipline and create a future generation with such discipline with the aim of preventing school children from road accidents and transforming the areas where schools are located into safe areas free from road accidents.
This program is expected to be implemented under the Preparedness and Emergency Response Committee mentioned in No. 2 of 2.2.3 of the School Safety Guidelines Code for Disaster Risk Management No. 16/201 issued by the Co-curricular Guidance and Counseling Branch of the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education has instructed that this program be supervised by Zonal Disaster Management Officers and Provincial Officers.
Why implement such a program targeting school children?
The Sri Lanka Medical Association made a request to the Minister of Education to implement such a program in the subject of school children after an evaluation of the terrible socio-economic disaster revealed by the ongoing road accidents. According to the World Health Organization, most children under the age of 19 die in car accidents. According to the organization, most of the world's traffic accidents occur in low-income and middle-income countries. This is a country where a person dies on the road every 4 hours. Last year, the number of road accident deaths in the country was 2515. The number of deaths in 2021 is 2513. Even in 2020, when the country was closed due to Covid, 2363 road accident deaths were reported. The total number of road accidents reported during the Covid period was 21953.
The tragedy of children's deaths due to road accidents is that at least 15 percent of these accidents are among school children under 19 years of age. In 2022, nearly 400 children under the age of 19 died in road accidents. Roughly, it accounts for 16 percent of all road accident deaths. It must be understood that we as a nation, have failed to make our roads a safe place when it comes to children. We as a country did not have a high social vision and altruism to create such a discipline.
Our school transport services are more than deplorable than any society can even dream of. The country's dilapidated and oldest vehicles are used to transport school children who are the country's most valuable resource. There are no safety regulations for bringing children to school in three-wheelers. There are some adults in this country who do not have the discipline get their own children to wear a helmet who is brought to school on a motorcycle. In such an uncaring society, the lives of children walking on the roadside cannot be guaranteed. It is this form of irresponsible behavior that manifests itself in the influx of school children’s deaths every year.
After announcing the target objective of a school road safety week, we expect to continue the process of developing this road safety knowledge culture that is born from schools without limiting it to one week. Finally, the ambitions of creating a disciplined future society with a discipline and habit of safety is the vision. Road safety has become extremely prominent as a country at the moment. Car accident is the worst disaster created by man. The social disaster caused by it has not yet been calculated in this country. But this disaster announced by the World Bank can give us some idea about how road accidents eat into the economy of a country. The gross national product of Sri Lanka is 89 billion US dollars. That is 28,500 billion Sri Lanka Rupees. According to World Bank leaders, the economic damage caused to a country due to road accidents is 3 to 5 percent of the gross national product.
Even if it is considered as a minimum of three percent, the amount lost to the country annually due to road accidents is 855 billion rupees. 2.67 billion dollars. The time has come when as a country that has fallen into begging in front of the world without foreign exchange should be intelligently understood how much of a hindrance is caused by road accidents. We believe that in a country where a child under the age of 19 dies on the road every day, social reforms to prevent road accidents should start from the school community. We respectfully request all the media organizations to cover the nationally important program and stay with this effort to recover from the disaster of road accidents as a nation.