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Traffic Safety at the Heart of Walks, Rallies Around the World


Thousands of people around the world are taking part in walks and rallies to promote traffic safety. May is Global Youth Traffic Safety Month. Traffic safety is a subject that touches the hearts of many, including the Nelson Mandela family of South Africa.

Cars and people -- trying to get along on one of the world's busiest roads. Biking and walking and crossing -- in Cambodia. India, and Tanzania. Competing with driving, sometimes risky, sometimes, losing.

Traffic crashes worldwide claim 1.2 million lives every year. South Africa has one of the world's worst road safety records, seeing about 40 deaths each day. Zanani Mandela -- great-granddaughter of Nelson Mandela -- died in a crash three years ago on the eve of the World Cup.

The Long Short Walk for safe roads is in her honor -- like this one in Vietnam and many more all over the world. Zanani's uncle, Kweku Mandela, joined the walk in Washington. "If could create something that would save lives in the future and could educate people we should bring light to it," he said. "So we did this in Zanani's name."

Walker Kristen Thomen is learning how to drive but is still haunted by a crash several years ago. She wants people to know the consequences of unsafe driving.

"People do get hurt and traumatized. Right now, I’m scared to back out of my driveway and when I learn how to drive, I have to learn how to back out of my driveway. It’s really traumatizing me for me because everytime, I see this accident happening,” Thomen stated.

Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says distracted driving is the new killer.

"Eighty-six percent of us buckle up but the whole notion of texting and driving," he said. "Cellphone use and driving, people don't get it yet."

The number of traffic deaths in the United States inched up last year, after dropping steadily for the past six years.

But globally the number continues to rise, expected to reach nearly 2 million deaths every year in the next decade. That's why the effort is so strong to reach this age group.

And even younger. Four-year-old Kai Zarr knows all about safety. "Hold hands when crossing the street with an adult," Zarr added.

“The younger you get to them and teach them about the culture of safety, the more likely they are to practice safe habits the rest of their life,” Zarr's father said.

A crucial lesson, passing safety habits onto their children.
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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

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