Why it is important to teach road safety at an early age

Sustainability, road safety, and social development are three major cornerstones of Unitrans Africa. this is why our Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions recently teamed up with Total Energies Marketing South Africa to launch a road safety education project for primary school learners.

It is been globally recognised that receiving road safety education at a young age is the most effective way of providing youngsters with road safety knowledge. At Unitrans we believe that education plays a vital role in shaping the attitude and behaviour of children, ensuring they become responsible drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

“In partnership with the Michelin Foundation, VIA is part of the Total Energies Foundation’s commitment to strengthening its involvement in road safety issues around the world. The objective of this educational program is to strengthen young people’s knowledge of road safety and enable them to develop their thinking and adapt their behaviour to their environment. We believe that many young South African learners could benefit from this programme, especially from a young age. That is why we have partnered with Unitrans on this important project,” said Mariam Kane-Garcia, Managing Director of Total Energies Marketing South Africa.

The project, aimed at promoting awareness of and educating learners about the importance of road safety, is being managed by the Road Safety Partnership SA (formerly known as GRSP SA) and is currently being rolled out at four primary schools in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.

The first beneficiaries of the project are Grade 6 learners from Moriting Primary and Isiziba Primary in Tembisa, Michael Mkhwanazi Primary in Tsakane, and Job Maseko Primary in KwaThema. Comprising four learning modules that are divided into teaching units, each with content filling about 50 minutes, the Programme will be implemented in the schools in a minimum of six teaching units.

The VIA Programme is built on internationally recognised child road safety education best practices, drawing from the experience of road safety practitioners from several industries. The programme is modular, flexible, accessible, and easy to integrate and implement in schools.

At Unitrans we recognise how important it is to help shape children and young people’s understanding of and attitudes towards road safety, to help give them the best chance of keeping safe while they’re young and as they get older.

The programme takes an innovative approach to learning, focusing on the value of life and teaching safe behaviour in traffic through active, emotional, and creative methods (with learning materials including detailed manuals, factsheets, worksheets, games, videos, and quizzes). It is flexible enough to be tailored to suit the needs of education systems and young people everywhere.

The goal is to reach 1200 learners this year and the project will recur annually, targeting Grade 6 learners. The joint funding provided goes towards the VIA Training Programme’s curriculum, learning materials, as well as the training of educators on the VIA Programme.

Unitrans Africa is involved in similar initiatives in other African countries, including Mozambique and Botswana where we conduct annual programmes. In the Manhica District of Maputo Province, for example, there are over 31 000 inhabitants that live in close proximity to the roads, as well as use the roads on a daily basis to get to work and school. A key part there is to ensure an understanding of how sugar cane vehicles operate and use the roads on a daily basis in order to maximise precaution while creating a community safety culture. In Botswana, we have partnered with the Departments of Road Transport & Safety, the Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund (MVA), and the Botswana Traffic Police to host road safety days at various schools over the years.

Through these projects, we want to change the at-risk behaviours of young road users, ensuring they habitually display safe behaviour in skilled and active ways.

Image: Photo by Stephen Andrews on Pexels. 

It is more environmentally friendly

Greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre for rail transport are up to five times less than road transport. In addition, external rail costs in terms of noise pollution and infrastructure deterioration (which in turn requires fossil fuels and maintenance) are much lower than road freight. Unitrans Africa, in its ambition to service its clients’ needs, currently runs a rail solution between the port of Maputo and Zimbabwe. Each train offering delivers 70 vehicles worth of cargo and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by in excess of 75%.

Aside from freight, it is interesting to note that according to this report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) rail travel is the most environmentally-friendly mode of passenger travel (apart from walking or cycling).  “Aviation’s emission impacts are much higher on a passenger-kilometer basis. But the report notes that flying is not necessarily the most harmful choice. Travel by petrol or diesel-powered car, especially if traveling alone, can be more harmful,” the report said.

It is highly cost-efficient

Trains burn less fuel per ton kilometre than trucks. The key here is in distance – rail transportation is only more affordable than road transportation for long distances due to the capacity the trains can handle. Our unique offering encompasses a patented wagon design that allows for flexibility in handling multiple commodities in either direction of loading.

Direct access

Road freight can be problematic and unpredictable in terms of delivery times due to poor road conditions, traffic congestion, and mechanical failures. In addition, extreme border congestion can lead to huge delays. Rail transport usually offers a more direct delivery solution. Through the key partnerships with NRZ National Railways of Zimbabwe, CFM Caminhos de Ferro de Mocambique, and Traxtion, Unitrans Africa is spurring trade in Africa by offering dedicated rail links between Maputo Port and three major Zimbabwean trade hubs, Harare, Bulawayo, and Gweru.

These transport services offer key access and an enhanced opportunity for importers and exporters to utilise Maputo’s multi-purpose deep-water port, connecting customers in the hinterland with their global trade partners and vice versa.

As we have seen with this rail corridor between Zimbabwe and Maputo, transit times have been reduced, costs lowered and we are able to offer a more reliable service. The positive economic impact of this more cost- and time-efficient trade corridor has been felt throughout the region and underscores Unitrans Africa’s commitment to driving sustainable growth within sub-Saharan Africa.

Header Photo by Aleksandar Malivuk