A Pedestrian Safety Tour will be carried out in primary schools in Ho Chi Minh City to educate students during the current academic year about safe walking.

The tour is part of Walk This Way Vietnam Programme, a road-safety advocacy programme that aims to educate children about safe walking behaviours and increase awareness about pedestrian welfare.

This year's programme kicked off with the launch of the International Walk to School Day in Vietnam two weeks ago, following a photo contest for secondary school students nationwide who will capture pictures about their surrounding traffic environment.

The contest will run from November 2013 to April 2014 and will end with an exhibition in mid-May in Hanoi featuring the winning photos.

The programme is expected to raise community awareness about safe walking and a safe environment for pedestrians, said Nguyen Ngoc Tuong, deputy head of the Ho Chi Minh City Traffic Safety Committee.

He said that pedestrian violations included jaywalking, crossing outside of zebra crossings, and ignoring signals.

Tuong asked police to impose strict fines on violators and told local People's Committees to take action to end illegal occupation of pavements for trading activities

In Vietnam, the number of pedestrians who die as a result of traffic accidents accounts for 14 percent of the total number of fatalities. This figure is 4-6 percent higher than that in other developing countries.

According to Mirjam Sidik, chief executive officer of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, road-safety programmes should give priority to schoolchildren, particularly in locations with a high volume of pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

A survey conducted between 2010 and 2012 showed that 6,952 primary school students were injured while walking to their schools in southern Dong Nai province.

In the first six months of 2011, 2,528 children in Dong Nai were brought to hospitals because of traffic accidents.

The number of pedestrians injured from traffic accidents accounted for one-fourth of the total injuries at Dong Nai province's Paediatrics Hospital. Dong Nai General Hospital reported that most people who sustained injuries from traffic accidents related to pedestrians were under 16 years old.

In Dong Nai province's Trang Bom district, Walk This Way has had a significant positive impact on students' behaviour, as the rate of children walking on sidewalks instead of streets has risen by 75 percent over the course of the programme, Sidik said.

The programme in Vietnam is organised by Safe Kids Worldwide in co-operation with FedEx Express.-VNA