Virtual to real : 12 steps for kids to survive the streets


You visit a motor show to get selfie close with cars that convey their “fast and furious” nature. You want to get immersed in cutting-edge automotive technologies. You want to touch their superbly designed metal bodies, open their doors, and enter the comfort of their cabins, and somehow imagine yourself out in the open highways behind the wheels of these beautiful cars on display.

Nowhere in your fantasies, however, does a child suddenly cross your path while you’re speeding at 200 kph. Nowhere in your wild imagination does your joyride end with someone dying on the roadside.

Sadly, the reality is that harsh, and that reality occurs hundreds of times at any given moment in the streets of the world.

Thus, it was a pleasant surprise that at the just-concluded 13th Manila International Auto Show held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, there was a corner devoted just for road safety, like the MIAS grew a conscience and woke up to the reality that, indeed, the motionless cars on display here may be adorable to look at, but out in the streets, these same cars can turn deadly, especially when the dude behind the wheel has “Irresponsible” as his or her middle name.

At the Volkswagen Philippines’ booth, Alberto Suansing, secretary general of the Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership (PGRSP), dutifully gave lectures to nearly 400 young road users (children up to 12 years old) on pedestrian safety during the entire four-day run of the motor show.

Why kids? Suansing replied that for every 34 fatalities from road crashes in the Philippines, five of them are children 15 years and below.

Of the five children involved, two were vehicle passengers, three were run over.

Suansing, former Land Transportation Office chief and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chair, told this writer, “we no longer call these ‘accidents.’ We call them ‘road crashes.’”

Accidents are inevitable, but road crashes, he stressed, are preventable. And just like a two-way street, both parties—the pedestrian and the motorist—should be made aware of their responsibilities as road users to prevent tragic incidents from occurring.

Suansing and Volkswagen Philippines also made use of virtual reality technology to make the lectures more “hands on” for the kids.

The participants eagerly wore the VR gadgets, and were instructed to hurdle seven levels depicting real-life pedestrian scenarios: walking from the home to hospital; hospital to school; school to park; park to church; church to the ice cream parlor; ice cream parlor to the mall; and mall to the street.

The seven levels would have to be accomplished in eight minutes or less.

This VR challenge effectively illustrated the 12 steps Suansing taught the children, and their parents, as well:

1. Do not walk on the streets when it’s dark, or when you are clothed in dark-colored clothes. Dark clothes can hardly be seen by drivers.

2. Be visible. Wear reflective clothing.

3. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t wear earphones, or text while walking. You need to be aware of passing vehicles. You cannot do that when you are walking and pre-occupied with something else.

4. Children, as much as possible, must be assisted by grown-ups when crossing roads.

5. Pedestrians also must plan, visualize their route, and determine where the danger points are before embarking on it.

6. Cross only on pedestrian lanes.

7. Obey pedestrian traffic lights, but …

8. … don’t jump in immediately when the pedestrian lights go green. Always still check for oncoming vehicles.

9. Look to your left AND right before you cross.

10. Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles, then extend your hand and wave so the driver will notice you and know your intentions.

11. Don’t run while crossing.

12. If you’re the adult or parent accompanying the child, always place the child on the safe side, either shielding them from oncoming vehicles (when crossing) or making them walk on the sidewalk side. Always hold the child’s hand when crossing streets.

PGRSP aims to reduce the growing number of road crash victims in the Philippines through advocacy, education, information, empowerment and technical programs.

In the Philippines, Volkswagen has placed special emphasis on road safety for children via its Child Safety Initiative (CSI) campaign, launched in 2015 also during the MIAS.

With CSI, Volkswagen hopes that the small steps to heighten awareness on road safety could just be the answer to the rising problem of road crashes and the breakdown of traffic discipline.

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