HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsKeep children off the roads

Keep children off the roads


A motorist is recovering at a local hospital after he was badly beaten by a mob near Mbare Musika.

Saturday Dialogue Ropafadzo Mapimhidze

The man, believed to be an official for some political party, hit a child that was frolicking handled the road.

Onlookers said the motorist was driving at a safe speed and as he swerved trying not to hit the child, the child fell down and he drove over his head killing the poor human being instantly.

After realising what had happened, he started driving heading towards the police station when people pulled him out of his vehicle and thoroughly beat him up.

This is just one of the many accidents involving little children that are left on the roads to play in Zimbabwe’s residential areas.

The roads are their playing grounds where they continuously dice with death as they play all kinds of games including soccer.

I have had some nasty arguments with women in some residential areas who watch their children play on the roads ignoring the dangers they are exposed to.

This is apparently a worldwide problem.

Two years ago, Florida parents in the US voted to ban children from playing in their streets or face a $100 fine. A group of homeowners asked to vote on the plan that would make the roads in their housing estate effectively child-free. Children would not be allowed to ride a skateboard, play in the street or even kick a ball if the stringent rules are applied, MailOnline reports.

The homeowners’ association for the 48 town homes in the subdivision proposed the rule to outlaw street games. The new rule would mean that children have to be under the “responsibility of an adult” at all times.

Children would not be allowed to play outside without supervision and the association wanted to restrict the type of toys that can be played with. Loud toys and skateboards would be banned.

But the proposed new rule was met with anger by some of the residents. Reaction by some parents was appalling insisting that kids should be allowed to play. One resident said: “I think people forgot what it was like to be a kid and want to go outside and play.”

Full Frontal Psychology, a website on Internet, explains why little children get hit by cars and says that the third leading cause of death for kids aged five to nine-years-old, and kids up to age 15, make up a disproportionate number of pedestrian casualties worldwide.

“It’s not hard to think of reasons for this scary statistic: Children are easily distracted and don’t always pay attention and they are also smaller, so they’re more likely to sustain fatal injuries when they are hit. But there may be another, even more basic, reason for this childhood peril: Kids simply don’t see the cars coming.”

MailOnline said the ability to see and avoid looming objects is a fundamental skill, crucial to survival not only for humans, but for most animals.

“We take it for granted because we do it automatically, but it’s actually a complex skill, requiring a rapid calculation of size and distance and velocity.

“Add to this, the fact that we pedestrians are also in motion and must figure in our own walking speed, it’s no surprise that even adults get clipped sometimes.”

Cruelty To Children Must STOP, another website on Internet, listed some of the situations children may find themselves in when they are out on their own.

It said children under the age of eight have difficulty judging the speed of vehicles and distances; and older children can underestimate risk when crossing the road, or be distracted by friends, phones or music.

This should be taken into account when setting boundaries for their play areas and activities.

Breaking the law or entering dangerous areas

Children who play unsupervised or older children out and about with their friends may be tempted or encouraged by others to trespass onto grounds, sites or buildings which are not safe.
Getting lost in crowded places
Managing younger children in crowds can be difficult. A child who becomes separated may find the experience very distressing. Older children will want to go off alone but need to know how to get in touch if they need you.
This reminds us of three-year-old Given Matapure, the child that went missing at the Exhibition Park in Harare two years ago, but was found dead months later. His remains are yet to be interred because his parents argue that the skeletal remains are that of a much older person.
Behaviour that upsets other people
Children at play can be loud and boisterous. This can annoy people in your local community and lead to confrontations that can be both upsetting for the children and neighbourhood relationships.
Talk seriously to older children about road safety and “no-go” areas
Let your older children know that you trust them to take care of themselves and what your expectations are.
Explain to them that trespassing (for example, on wasteland or on building sites) is against the law and can be very dangerous.
Prepare children for when you are in a crowded places
Some ideas from other parents that might work with children of different ages include: “Teaching them their name, address and telephone number. We practiced at bath time until we were sure they knew them.”
This is something I personally did with my second youngest child. She knew my names and her father’s names in full by age three-and-a-half and by the time she was four, she could tell our telephone numbers and even dial them on the landlines.
MailOnline continues: “Reins worked when they were smaller. Now, we hold hands. I guess when that gets embarrassing they will be old enough to cope with crowds.”

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