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Road safety warning as city’s kids get set for start of new school term

Road safety warning as city’s kids get set for start of new school term

Originally published at the South China Morning Post on August 28, 2016.

Police have warned the public to be mindful of road safety as city schools are set to reopen on September 1, and youngsters remain some of the most frequent victims of traffic accidents.

Excluding senior citizens, Hongkongers between the ages of 10 and 14 have consistently ranked as the age group with the highest rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities from 2009 to 2015, according to statistics from the Transport Department. Last year, the age group saw 137 casualties.

To prepare for local schools reopening, police will deploy more resources to ensure smooth traffic flow in school vicinities and “take stringent enforcement action” against irresponsible drivers for any actions that pose safety risks such as illegal parking, a police spokesman said. There is no particular district that is more prone to increased road congestion, but the volume of traffic may rise in school clusters all over the city, he added.

“Police would advise parents and school authorities to pay special attention to this group of students as they start to go to school alone. Students should be properly trained and tested to ensure their safety before being allowed to travel alone by public transport,” he said. “We would like to seek the cooperation of parents and other road users to obey traffic laws ... and pay special attention to school kids running around.”

Police will conduct a series of education and publicity activities prior to the reopening advising parents and school authorities on how to best ensure students’ safety, the spokesman added.

Local parent George Yeung said that his 12-year-old son started taking a green minibus to school from Kwun Tong to Kowloon Tong when he was in primary four. Although he was surprised to hear about the high pedestrian casualty rate for his son’s age group, he said that ultimately the authorities are doing a good job of keeping students safe.

“Before, I heard news of a teenager getting into a car accident because he was hurrying to school. I do have concerns,” Yeung said, adding that so far his son had not been in any accidents. “Every time he goes [to school] I remind him to take care when crossing the road ... and that keeping safe is the most important.”

On Thursday, the Transport Department also released a notice reminding public transport operators to provide adequate service to cater for the expected traffic spike. Staff will be deployed at various major locations to observe road conditions, and students are advised to allow for more travelling time, according to the release.

”We want to appeal to parents with children who are travelling to and from school alone for the first time, particularly if they are transitioning from primary to secondary school, to be more careful about road safety,” a Transport Department spokeswoman said.

Cheung Chok-fong, principal of local primary school Father Cucchiara Memorial School in Tsing Yi, is one educator who is worried about road safety ahead of the reopening. The entrance to the primary school faces four parking spots for trucks and vans, which Cheung said poses a safety hazard for students entering and leaving the school.

“We teach the kids to look right and left. But for the truck drivers, if a child is standing behind them, they might not be able to see them because the vehicle is too big. That’s our worry,” Cheung said, adding that some of the school’s 350 students do travel unaccompanied. “We now have teachers escorting students to a safer area after school before letting them go. In the morning, we also have teachers standing outside the school for safety.”

Education sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen said that he has written to the government to ask for the parking spaces to be moved to a safer location. He stressed the importance of road safety education for children.

“This situation should not be allowed. There is a chance that other schools might have similar problems,” Ip said. “We need to pay close attention to the safety of the children and [that includes] the arrangement of the parking facilities and road arrangements.”

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