When our children are being warned about the dangers of little exercise and poor diet, it is natural to get them into walking or cycling to school or just out of the house to play. And that’s great, but it has to be done with care.
In 2004, 3,905 children (0 to 16) were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads (many more were hurt but not seriously). Boys are more likely to be hit than girls, and their accidents are more likely to be severe.
Research* has uncovered important differences in the way British children use the streets compared to French and Dutch children:
- British children spend more time near main roads, busy roads, and roads with faster traffic, than their European equivalents.
- British children are less likely to use a marked crossing when choosing a crossing point.
- British children are less likely to be accompanied by an adult, and more likely to be accompanied by other children, who might distract their attention
- 20% of British children hang about in the street, on foot or on cycles.
So what can you do to help avoid your child being one of those accident victims? Make sure you tell them about the danger points listed above. It’s important they realise they are responsible for their own safety when you aren’t around.
Educate your child not just by telling them but by showing them the Hazards On The Roads. If they walk to school, make sure you do the walk with them until they (and you) are comfortable that you have identified the best places to walk, cross and where to look out for blind spots. You can do the same for the park and shops until you’re sure they’ve got the message.
It’s also worth remembering that if the traffic can’t see them, it may be too late by the time they do. When buying coats, especially in winter when the nights draw in, make sure it is a light colour (yes, it made be harder to clean, but what would you rather have – a more grubby coat or an invisible child?)
There are also some great reflective products on the market now, which will help them to Stay Safe When Cycling. Clothes can be customised with fluorescent designs or stickers and sashes, and can be bought from places such as Cyberglow.
Campaign for Traffic Measures
On a wider note, you can campaign for traffic calming measures or more well lit crossing points to be implemented in your area. And if your child does walk to school, ask if the school has thought about implementing a walking bus scheme, where highly visible volunteer parents escort the children to school each day, doing pick ups along the way much as a real bus does.
In built up areas with heavy residential parking, it is easy for a toddler to run out between cars to chase a bird or a ball, so consider a rein or wrist ribbon until they are old enough to appreciate the dangers.
*Child Pedestrian Exposure and Accidents – Further Analyses of Data from a European Comparative Study (Road Safety Research Report No 56, September 2005)