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Research Proposal Essay

This research project is entitled ‘Safe pedestrian practices: the perception of children in Sri Lanka’. Road traffic accidents are one of leading causes of death amongst child pedestrians in low-income countries. Despite this, little research has been done into effective interventions to reduce child mortality in these countries. This study aims to provide original and useful data from Colombo, Sri Lanka which will help in the development of new or existing road safety interventions and education, particularly in relation to child knowledge and perception.

The method of research involves recruiting school children aged 8-9 years from the Holy Family Convent and St. Peter’s College schools situated on Galle road, Colombo. These schools have been selected as they have similar location, one being a girls school, the other a boys school.

The first part of the study involves a draw and write technique where the children will be asked to draw a picture of themselves crossing Galle road, the main road by their school. They will then be given a piece of paper with the instruction ‘tell me what you have drawn and why’. Six children from each class will be then purposively selected to take part in a focus group. Content analysis will be used when analysing this section of the results. Finally I will carry out a two day observation of child pedestrian behaviour on Galle road. Behaviour of the children will be compared using the UK’s Green Cross Code.

It is estimated that the research will take approximately four weeks to complete. This includes, recruiting and gaining consent from the participants, carrying out the draw and write activity, completing two focus groups and carrying out the observational study. The estimated cost of this research £1163. Background

Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide with 86% of deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries despite accounting for only 40% of motor vehicles[i]. RTAs are the overriding cause of child injuries killing approximately 180 000 children under 15 each year. Children are rarely the cause of road traffic accidents but suffer as pedestrians, cyclists and passengers[ii]. Lack of research in low-income countries has meant a slow introduction of effective intervention strategies to reduce the mortality rates.

Many factors are accountable for the high RTA rates in low-income countries including impaired driving, lack of enforcement and vehicle type. However the most significant differences found in low-income countries are the wide variation in road vehicles and the high number of vulnerable road users. The mixture of road users including pedestrians, bicycles, handcarts, mopeds, rickshaws, motorcycles, vans, cars, trucks and buses means that schemes to combat this problem have not been required in the same extent in high-income countries and therefore local research is needed[iii].

Child pedestrians account for a large proportion of vulnerable road users. The high number of pedestrian and cyclist casualties in these countries reflects not only their inherent vulnerability but also insufficient attention to their needs in policy-making3. A study in Pakistan observed 250 pedestrians in the top 10 risk areas for pedestrian RTAs in Karachi. They observed walking and crossing the road and walking on the pavement. Only 60% of the pedestrians looked left and right before crossing. 52% crossed the street less than 2 seconds before a vehicle passed the point they had just crossed. 35% caused the traffic to swerve to avoid the observed pedestrian. Of the 250 pedestrians observed walking on the street edge, 82% had a pavement available to them but were not using it[iv].

Of the pedestrians using pavements 28% encountered an encroachment and 84% of these stepped on to the street to avoid it. Among those who were observed stepping on the road from the sidewalk, 66% did not look out for oncoming traffic4. Possible study limitations were that only pedestrian behaviour was studied, not actual accidents and the study sites were the top ten risk sites for RTAs in Karachi so may not be transferable to other situations. The advantage of this data is that it was carried out in a low-income country which means the findings can be drawn on for other settings. Policy changes such as restricting the amount of pavement space being used by stalls or shops and publicity to highlight the danger of such behaviour along with the important of observation when crossing roads may make a large difference to fatality rates.

Risk perception has been widely studied as a risk factor for injuries however literature relating to child pedestrian safety is seriously lacking. Zeedyk et al[v] carried out research on children who had been taught a programme of road safety. They carried out two studies, both focussing on the skill of finding a safe place to cross the road. Firstly they tested the effect of the programme in improving knowledge and secondly whether the children transferred their knowledge to change their behaviour in a traffic environment. Initial results encouragingly showed that the interventions were effective in increasing the children’s knowledge of safe and dangerous places to cross roads and that this information was retained for six months.

The second study however showed that this knowledge did not influence behaviour and that those children who had received knowledge on safety when crossing roads behaved no differently from those children who had receive no information whatsoever. That is the children were not applying the knowledge they had displayed during pre-testing5. The study’s main limitation is that it does not allow any further information on why the children didn’t apply their knowledge in the real situation, only that they didn’t.

Research in Australia[vi] into the parental risk perceptions of childhood pedestrian road safety found that cultural risk factors significantly affected risk perception and safety behaviour. The results showed that Chinese and Arabic speaking parents perceived the road environment to be significantly less risky to their children than parents from the other two language groups. One significant limitation of this study is that assumptions were made that the language spoken by an individual was closely linked to their cultural make-up. Since the main finding was the differences between perceptions from different cultural groups it seems important that this factor is reliable. Despite this, this study reinforces the need for local research from which local interventions can be implemented.

As described there is very little research on road safety in low-income countries, particularly regarding the safety of child pedestrians. Intervention strategies to help reduce child pedestrian mortality can only be implemented if the factors underlying the increasing rates are established.

It is hoped this study will help to describe the behaviour and perceptions of children in a named area in Sri Lanka regarding safe pedestrian practice. The study will help build on existing knowledge of child pedestrian safety but provide an original and detailed description of the behaviour and perceptions of Sri Lankan children in a defined area. The data produced from this study will identify the knowledge and behaviour of child pedestrians, what they perceive to be safe practices and why they think this. This study anticipates highlighting the importance of child perception in safety behaviours. Child perceptions should be taken into account when considering the design of safety education programmes and road safety interventions. Research Question

The background literature shows a clear gap in research into the behaviour, knowledge and perceptions of child pedestrians in low-income countries.

The research question for this study is: Child pedestrian fatalities: the accountability of child perceptions in Sri Lanka

The aim of this study is to discover the perceptions children in Sri Lanka have regarding road safety and specifically related to their own safety as pedestrians which may influence their risk of being involved in a RTA. The results of this study will enable a greater understanding of how a defined group of children in Colombo, Sri Lanka use the local roads, what they know about road safety, how they perceive it and therefore whether they generally behave in accordance to their knowledge and perceptions. This was discussed above by Zeedyk et al5 who found the knowledge of the children in their study did not affect their behaviour.

The objectives of this study are to: – Observe and record the road behaviour of children in the local area – Identify what the children know about pedestrian safety – Discover whether the children know why certain practices are safe – Make comparisons between what the children know about road safety and say they are aware of and how they behave in the real situation

Detailed Research Proposal

pedestrian injury Children are particularly vulnerable to pedestrian death because they are exposed to traffic threats that exceed their cognitive, developmental, behavioral, physical and sensory abilities. This is exacerbated by the fact that parents overestimate their children’s pedestrian skills. Children are impulsive and have difficulty judging speed, spatial relations, and distance. Auditory and visual acuity, depth perception and proper scanning ability develop gradually and do not fully mature until at least age 10.


RTA death rates in Sri Lanka totalled 11 per 100 000 population in 1995[vii] with pedestrian accidents accounting for 45% of the total fatal accidents, one of the highest rates in Asia[viii].

The research will be carried out among children in Sri Lanka. The selected site is Galle Road, Colombo which is the main road from Colombo to Galle along the west coast of Sri Lanka and is the location of a number of schools. The assumption will be made that the majority of child pedestrians walking alongside and crossing that particular road are from one of the local schools.

The study population will be girls and boys aged 5-15 years old attending schools in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Research shows RTAs predominantly affect those under the age of 15 [ix]. Schools in Sri Lanka are commonly single sex which means children will be selected from 2 schools, St Peter’s College, a boys’ school and Holy Family Convent, a girls’ school. Worldwide, boys are more likely to be affected by RTAs than girls so studying boys and girls may highlight important differences which could account for such a difference between them[x] [xi].

I was unable to find any research indicating which children are most at risk of RTAs only that those under 15 are an increased risk compared to the rest of the population. Research from Canada suggests children aged 6-9 years are most at risk and in a survey on children’s road safety practice several countries including the UK, New Zealand and the US identified those under 10 as most at risk[xii]. Research such as this in low income countries is scarce.

Consequently I have decided to select the age groups 7-8 and 9-10 years as my sample. The methods being used in this study have been deemed inappropriate for children under 6 to carry out. Two classes of children, aged 7-8 and 9-10 from each of the schools mentioned year group will be studied, giving a total of 4 classes. Variations in ages might allow for difference in safety knowledge due to age to be identified. For example if the younger children perceive a certain dangerous practice to be safe and the same results are found in the older children this may indicate a problem with safety education or local road dangers rather than naivety due to age.

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