Costa Rica’s Vice President hosts #SaveKidsLives forum
The Vice President of Costa Rica and senior ministers have led a regional event, supported by the FIA Foundation, to encourage partnerships in child road traffic injury prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Regional Congress for Child Road Safety in the Americas, held in San Jose, Costa Rica, on 7-8 May, was attended by the Vice President of Costa Rica, Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, Minister of Health of Costa Rica, Fernando Llorca Castro, and Minister of Public Works and Transport of Costa Rica, Carlos Segnini Villalobos. The conference was organised by the Automobile Club of Costa Rica, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and the FIA Foundation. Government agencies, NGOs, survivor groups, private sector organizations, medical and public health associations, development agencies and global organizations took part in the event. The event was organised to support the 3rd UN Global Road Safety Week and the #SaveKidsLives campaign.
Carlos Macaya, President of the Automobile Club of Costa Rica and former Chairman of the FIA Foundation, and Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, Director for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital and President of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, led the conference. Speakers presented child road safety initiatives from Latin America and the Caribbean, placing emphasis on motor vehicle safety and the use of child restraint systems, as well as the protection of child pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders.
The conference topics spanned the five pillars of the ‘Safe System’ framework of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, including road safety management, safer infrastructure, safe vehicles, road user behaviour and post-crash care. The UN Decade of Action target is to stabilise and reduce the 2010 baseline of 1.2 million deaths per year, to 1 million by 2020. This is the first step in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal target of halving that baseline to 600,000 deaths by 2030.
Common themes throughout the conference were the calls for further partnerships, road safety curriculum in schools, the involvement of youth in the promotion of road safety culture, the need for non-motorized transport infrastructure, and the safety of child passengers and pedestrians, especially in school zones. “We must allow that each child has the right to play outdoors, to pedal their bicycle to school, and to travel safely”, said Carlos Macaya.
Presenters shared their efforts to protect children on our roads. Natalie Draisin, US Manager for the FIA Foundation, highlighted the Foundation’s joint report with UNICEF, ‘Safe to Learn’, launched during Global Road Safety Week. The report focuses on child road traffic injury prevention and using improved safety in school neighbourhoods to spark a wider effort, reflecting the vision that “by 2030, all children should have safe route to walk or cycle to school”.
This vision was shared by Liana Vetch from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who highlighted the ‘Share the Road’ initiative, co-founded with the FIA Foundation and pointed out that “27% of accidents on the roads involve pedestrians and cyclists,” pointing to the importance of making roads safe for all users, of all ages.
“With children, no care is excessive,” a sentiment Diza Gonzaga, founder of Thiago de Moraes Gonzaga Foundation, shared with other parents of crash victims in attendance, who united on stage following presentations by parents whose children had been killed on our roads, taking Friday’s agenda on an emotional turn. “Having a child is like having your heart beating inside another being. Losing a child is like having your heart ripped from your chest, thrown to the ground, and stomped on,” said Julie Garner, founder of Project Yellow Light. The Project is a scholarship competition designed to bring about road safety behavioural change among youth.
Gary Smith echoed the parents’ call to action, reiterating the urgency to take action for children dying on our roadways when he described his medical experience responding to car crashes. “I’ve seen the faces of the family when they find out their child has died or will live permanently with a disability,” he said.
To close the conference, schoolchildren delivered the #SaveKidsLives Child Declaration to the Vice President and Minister of Health of Costa Rica. “We are the children, and we ask that you protect us,” they said before a round of applause.
In addition to the continuity of global road safety efforts in Latin America, there will be a second Global Road Safety Regional Congress focusing on Child Road Safety in the Americas hosted by the Automobile Club of Chile and the Gonzalo Rodriguez Foundation in June 2016.
Many of the leaders in attendance in San Jose, Costa Rica, will also be participating in the 2nd Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety, 18-19 November 2015, Brasilia-Brazil. “Come to Brasilia prepared to do something – not just to learn, but to share your lessons,” urged Lorrie Walker, of Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization that strives to reduce traffic injuries. The Conference will bring together leaders from all over the world, focusing on the implementation of a road safety target in the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.