“Slow down-School ahead,” reads a sign outside a leading private school in Bangalore, which has converted the area outside its premises into a “safe school zone” to ensure safety children’s road and improve pedestrian access.

St Joseph’s High School in Bangalore is one of a handful of schools in five cities across the country where such zones have been set up on an experimental basis.

A school safety zone consists of designated roads located near a school where additional care is required due to an increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic associated with the school. The area extends up to 300 feet from the school property line or at least 300 feet from a school crossing.

Standard “school speed limit” signs mark the start of a school zone and “end of school zone” signs indicate the end of a school zone. The zones only include zones of active school use.

Although the initiative is a popular road safety concept in countries like the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and parts of Europe, it has yet to take off in India.

Globally, schools are part of the vulnerable zone of road users and, according to statistics, road accidents account for 37-38% of deaths among 0-14 year olds and 62-64% among young people. 14-year-olds. -18.

In India, there has been a steady increase in the number of deaths of schoolchildren under the age of 18 – 6.4% in 2017, 6.6% in 2018 and 7.4% in 2019 – according to official statistics from the ministry of the road. Transport and highways.

The numbers translate to the death of a child in India every 45 minutes in a road accident or 31 children losing their lives every day.

The National Study on Safe Commute to School, a report by the SaveLIFE Foundation and Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India, noted that nearly 30% of children witnessed a traffic accident while on their way. trip to go to the school, while 6% of the children have been involved in such accidents.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in partnership with the World Resources Institute (WRI) in India, launched and designed a safe school zone on the Mirza Ghalib road from Byculla on a pilot basis.

“The initiative, launched more than three weeks ago, aimed to identify ways to provide students with safer access to school. Mirza Ghalib Road in the E district of the city (Byculla) is home to two schools – Christ Church School and St Agnes High School We started the trial using paint, barricades and cones, ”said Dhawal Ashar, Senior Director, Sustainable Cities and Transport, WRI India.

“The design solutions we tested included a demarcation using traffic signs, road markings, providing designated areas for walk and hold, multi-use areas, including grab areas. loading and unloading, spaces suitable for children with playful elements and a dynamic pedestrian crossing. The trial using low-cost equipment will help gather feedback from the neighborhood, before making it permanent in the field, ”he said.

A similar setup tested at St Joseph’s High School in Bengaluru is the result of the initiative of multinational conglomerate 3M, “Young Change Agents for Road Safety” in partnership with Concern for Road and Pedestrian Safety (CoRPS) and United Way of Bengaluru.

“In most countries of the world, vehicle drivers are sensitive to vulnerable road users. A person driving at very high speed would stop when they saw a pedestrian or a cyclist crossing the road. Unfortunately, we are missing this road etiquette in India. citizens, we must understand that having a driver’s license does not mean a license to harm, ”Pawan Kumar Singh, executive director of the Transport and Electronics group at 3M India, told PTI.

Some of the schools where Safe Zones have been created or initiated so far include the 116-year-old Fort High School at Chamrajpet in Bangalore; NP Boys Senior Secondary School at Mandir Marg in Delhi; Jnana Prabodhini Prashala, Silver Crest school in Pune and a school in Gurugram.

Stakeholders on board plan to take the lead in at least 100 schools across the country next year, before proposing to the government to make it a full-fledged program.

“We are engaging students by getting their feedback on how their school zones could be made safer when it comes to road safety. We then try to translate their suggestions with minimum field changes, as well as our overall experience and expertise. All physical improvements and facilities are achieved through CSR, ”Singh said.

Chetan Umapathy, program manager at CoRPS, explained that as part of the program, students begin with a safety audit around their schools to determine issues such as potholes.

“They then take a video simulation module where they see the problems of the road from a driver’s point of view. They plot the problem areas or mark the safety zones around their schools on maps and suggest others. measures such as signage or speed bumps at the appropriate points, “he said. noted.

These entrances are implemented using safety techniques such as raised pavement markers, road posts, fluorescent reflective signs and reflective bollards, among others, Umapathy added.

According to KK Kapila, president emeritus of the International Road Federation (IRF), the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs must include the school safety zone as one of the components of the mission of smart cities.

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