With its population, economy and world stature on the rise, Brazil is booming. At the same time, its future may be in jeopardy, as the nation’s roadways are becoming less safe. Road traffic is the leading cause of death for children in Brazil ages 14 and under. Of the nearly 44,000 deaths in road crashes in Brazil every year, almost 2,000 are children.
Driving in Brazil can be risky, with a wide range of erratic behavior on the roads. Many streets in commercial districts are packed with pedestrians who may or may not use pedestrian crossings. With multiple school sessions per day, the streets around schools are full of kids, many with no crossing guards to guide them. Enforcement is an important issue in Brazil, and one where public education and awareness play an important role. For example, in Brazil car seat and seat belt laws are neither well followed nor strictly enforced, and police do not pull over cars when they see violations. The number of road traffic deaths has increased, in part due to the growing number of vehicles on the roads, especially the number of motorbikes ridden by people with little road experience.
Fortunately, Criança Segura Brasil (Safe Kids Brazil) and other leading organizations are helping boost road safety as a priority. Brazil is one of the countries that participated in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Road Safety Program, which was conducted over five years (2010-2014) by a consortium of international partners, national governments and local organizations.Vida no Trânsito, as the project is known in Brazil, supports the government in implementing good road safety practices in line with the national road safety policy, with a focus on reducing drink-driving and speeding.
The Maio Amarelo (Yellow May) campaign is a Brazilian-based, international initiative raising the visibility of road traffic fatalities and injuries and encouraging greater personal responsibility on behalf of drivers and pedestrians alike. The Inter-American Development Bank and the International Automobile Federation are also making a difference in road safety in Brazil.
And with the support of FedEx and other partners, Criança Segura is leading road and pedestrian safety initiatives focused on children. Programs include Safe Kids in Traffic and other intensive training programs for health, education, social work, nonprofit and government professionals. The Model School Zone Project performs community needs assessments and modifications to improve children’s safety walking to and from school. Criança Segura also was influential in securing activities and strategies to prevent unintentional childhood injuries in the federal government’s four-year plan and worked to pass legislation such as raising the minimum age to ride on a motorcycle from 7 years to 12 years. In 2013, Queen Sophía of Spain presented Criança Segura with the Fundacion MAPFRE award for Best Action to Prevent Accidents and Damage to Health.
Alessandra Françóia, national coordinator, tells this story to sum up the work of Criança Segura. “When I think of the Walk This Way pedestrian safety program, I always remember a principal I met when we conducted a pilot project in Curitiba, a city in the south of the country. This principal told me that before we implemented our Walk This Way project, at least four children every year were struck by a car. Remember, that’s in just one school. We checked back a year later and not a single child in that school had been injured since the Way This Way program had been implemented. What a difference.”
Through continued education, training and advocacy, Criança Segura and like-minded partners will help children, and the country, reach their full potential.