Learning how to save lives in Belize

 

UK transport research organisation TRL is a delivery partner in the Belize Road Safety Project, which has been awarded a Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for its outstanding contribution to road safety.

TRL’s Darren Divall told Transport Network about the organisation’s contribution to the project.

Established by the Belize Government’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in 2013, the Belize Road Safety Project sought to drive a reduction in injuries and fatalities from traffic collisions along a demonstration corridor between Belize City and Belmopan.

Prior to the interventions, this corridor accounted for almost half of all road traffic deaths in Belize. At the end of December 2015, less than 10% of the country’s road deaths occurred there.

”Local
A workshop developing road safety education materials

The project consisted of an analysis of existing road safety procedures in the region, followed by the recommendation and implementation of a number of ‘safe system’ interventions to improve road safety.

This included the introduction of warning signals for drivers at night, patrol and emergency vehicles on highways and the development of a road safety curriculum for schools and teachers.

Also included in the project was an assessment of sections of the corridor under the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP).

Individual sections were given different safety ratings, identifying where the road needed most attention. Almost all sections of the highway received only one or two stars out of a potential five.

Physical interventions included improvements to highway shoulders and drainage, improvements to road markings and high visibility warning markings, carriageway resealing, junction improvements, pedestrian facilities including crossings, safety barriers and safer speeds. There was also a public relations campaign to inform the public.

TRL’s main contribution was in the form of a road safety education programme for schools along the corridor.

Darren Divall, TRL’s team leader, international road safety, told Transport Network that this used Jerome Bruner’s model of spiral learning, in which young people are given information and become active in the learning process by applying that information in the real world scenario before reflecting on the experience to better their understanding.

Mr Divall explained that the intention was to integrate road safety education into existing academic curriculum subjects, rather than produce a stand-alone road safety education curriculum. For example, children in nursery schools learning about shapes and colours would be asked to talk about the different shapes and colours of road signs as an introduction into their meaning.

Primary school children would be given practical pedestrian training and secondary school pupils studying science would took at road transport issues, including the use of seat belts and airbags.

The project used what it learned to engage with teachers and stakeholders in the Ministry of Education, developing instructional and interactive materials for teachers or students. There was also a pilot project in schools where teachers used the materials and were given equipment such as traffic cones and high visibility vests to support practical learning.

Mr Divall said it was important not to say ‘this is how we do it in other countries, because the road environment is very different’. As such, the pilot component of the project was to ‘localise the materials to that environment to maximise relevance’.

The project started in May 2014 and the pilot was completed in the summer of 2015. The Belize Ministry of Education is now taking the project forward to build capacity across the country. TRL has also delivered a similar project in Guyana.

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