Improving Road Safety for Even the Youngest Armenians

19-05-2021

Road crashes are a “silent pandemic” that kill more than 1 million people globally every year, with a particularly devastating impact on the younger generation. Data from the World Health Organization show that every eight minutes, a child dies in a car crash somewhere around the world. In fact, traffic collision injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among children and young people aged 5–25 years.

Although safer road infrastructure and more secure vehicles can go a long way toward tackling the road safety crisis, they are just one part of the equation. Education is also critical, especially for children and youth, and basic safety skills training should be provided as early in life as possible. No child should die or be seriously injured while they walk, play, cycle, or go to school.  

Armenia is no exception when it comes to road safety concerns. With a population of around 3 million, it has a high road fatality rate of 9.4 deaths per 100,000 people, and children are especially vulnerable. In 2019, road crash fatalities were more than double the European Union (EU) average, and the socioeconomic costs of road crashes are estimated at 5.7 percent of Armenia’s GDP (World Bank 2019), a loss the country cannot afford.

Road Crash Fatalities per 100,000 Population, Eastern Partnership vs European Union Countries, 2019

 

 

 
 
 
 

Children face specific road safety risks due to their small size, slower reflexes, poor assessment of road conditions, reduced visibility, and other physical and cognitive limitations. As in many other countries, most of Armenia’s road infrastructure was not designed to address these risk factors or accommodate the mobility needs of children, leaving them particularly exposed to vehicular traffic.

The Government of Armenia and the World Bank are currently working to change the status quo through the Bank-financed Armenia Lifeline Road Network Improvement Project (LRNIP), which supports the rehabilitation and upgrading of 395 kilometers of critical rural roads across the country. Implemented by the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure jointly with the Roads Department, the project includes a number of measures to enhance road safety.

For example, an innovative “safe village” concept, a combination of road safety engineering improvements near the village school, is being piloted. This involves the construction of specific traffic safety features, including road humps and raised pedestrian crossings, footways, railings/fences, bus bays, and the installation of appropriate traffic signs and markings. The project also introduces mandatory road safety training for school-aged children living in the communities benefiting from the road upgrades.

The training includes meetings with teachers, school principals, parents, and community representatives to demonstrate the appropriate methods for educating children of all ages on road safety and to underscore the frequency with which those trainings should be conducted. In this way, teachers can educate children by providing the life-saving messages and skills from a young age.

As of today, 23 community schools have benefited from the road safety program, and roughly 900 pupils have received training in the central regions of Kotayk and Ararat. In total, children from 85 Armenian communities will be trained under the project. The engagement approach is to use age-appropriate interactive education tools; for example, high school students are taking interactive tests on their cell phones, while children at the elementary level gain knowledge through fun interactive games and colorful booklets.   

“Children’s knowledge and experience about the principles of road safety are better strengthened through such practical and interactive exercises and materials,” said Anna Gorgyan, a teacher at Karenis Secondary School in the Kotayk region. Ms. Gorgyan mentions that even though the rehabilitation works have included the installation of new road signs, drivers and pedestrians in the village do not always pay attention to them. The trainings have helped change the way people think and behave by creating a culture of strict adherence to traffic rules from an early age.

Varazdat Avetisyan, a third grader at Karenis school, smiles: “I didn’t know that in the late hours, when it is dark outside, pedestrians should try to wear light-colored clothing so that they are visible to drivers while crossing the road. And that headphones should be removed when crossing the road so as not to get distracted.”

Road safety skills are best learned outdoors, in a real traffic environment. Children learn by experience, and adult interaction is an important part of that process. As children walk, they ask questions about roads, signs, traffic, and how and where to cross the road. An educated child brings the knowledge back home and may teach friends about road safety issues.

As part of this commitment to safety, the project team has also been working to implement enhanced people-centered design features along targeted roads and is collaborating with traffic police to enhance crash data systems in the country.

While Armenia works toward a resilient recovery from the recent war and ongoing pandemic, it is essential that it continue to embrace new opportunities. Addressing road fatalities and providing safer mobility for all citizens, particularly children, is one bold way to ensure a brighter future for the country.

As of today, 23 community schools have benefited from the road safety program, and roughly 900 pupils have received training in the central regions of Kotayk and Ararat. In total, children from 85 Armenian communities will be trained under the project. The engagement approach is to use age-appropriate interactive education tools; for example, high school students are taking interactive tests on their cell phones, while children at the elementary level gain knowledge through fun interactive games and colorful booklets.   

“Children’s knowledge and experience about the principles of road safety are better strengthened through such practical and interactive exercises and materials,” said Anna Gorgyan, a teacher at Karenis Secondary School in the Kotayk region. Ms. Gorgyan mentions that even though the rehabilitation works have included the installation of new road signs, drivers and pedestrians in the village do not always pay attention to them. The trainings have helped change the way people think and behave by creating a culture of strict adherence to traffic rules from an early age.

Varazdat Avetisyan, a third grader at Karenis school, smiles: “I didn’t know that in the late hours, when it is dark outside, pedestrians should try to wear light-colored clothing so that they are visible to drivers while crossing the road. And that headphones should be removed when crossing the road so as not to get distracted.”

Road safety skills are best learned outdoors, in a real traffic environment. Children learn by experience, and adult interaction is an important part of that process. As children walk, they ask questions about roads, signs, traffic, and how and where to cross the road. An educated child brings the knowledge back home and may teach friends about road safety issues.

As part of this commitment to safety, the project team has also been working to implement enhanced people-centered design features along targeted roads and is collaborating with traffic police to enhance crash data systems in the country.

While Armenia works toward a resilient recovery from the recent war and ongoing pandemic, it is essential that it continue to embrace new opportunities. Addressing road fatalities and providing safer mobility for all citizens, particularly children, is one bold way to ensure a brighter future for the country.