This is, in case you have missed, is the UN Road Safety Week. Of all the worthy causes highlighted in this, that or the other, day/week the annual toll of death and injury must be one of the most important. Annually 1.24 million people are killed on the world’s roads. Of these, 22% – 270,000 or so – are pedestrians, which is why this year the UN is focussing on this group of casualties.
According to the UN:
“Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users. Studies indicate that males, both children and adults, make up a high proportion of pedestrian deaths and injuries. In developed countries, older pedestrians are more at risk, while in low-income and middle-income countries, children and young adults are often affected. Both children and adults with disabilities suffer higher rates of injury as pedestrians compared to their non-disabled peers.”
Today the RAC Foundation was one of those organisations which signed an open letter, published in The Times, calling on ministers to do more to encourage safe walking. It coincided with the launch by the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety of Stepping Out (authored by Road Safety Analysis) which provides a framework of action.
Amongst the report’s messages is the need to protect children from the dangers of the road. This is something we have done our own work into. Of the points worth considering are:
- 4 and 5 year olds do not have the cognitive ability for safe road crossing. This only starts to develop at age 7/8. (Barton and Schwebel, 2007).
- Children display less safe road crossing behaviours when they are with their parents (i.e. they rely on their parents), however when unaccompanied they show more vigilant behaviour, though depending on age this might not be enough to protect them (Barton and Schwebel, 2007).
- Age 12 is a particularly pertinent age because it is when the transition from primary to secondary school is made (Platt et al, 2003). This is characterised by children gaining more independence which can expose them to greater risk (Frank McKenna, 2009).
- From age 11 it is more difficult to influence the attitudes and behaviours of young people (Deighton and Luther, 2007). From this point onwards peer influences are more relevant and important. This is why early years education is important
- School-based ‘tuffty clubs’ have been found to be less effective than parent based teaching. Here in particular it looks like parent rather than school interventions are most effective. For parents to do the best job it is important that information is available to help them know what age-appropriate information (linked to development stages) should be used. There is also a ‘modelling good behaviour’ role for parents (Towner et al, 2005).
The research done into this topic is not purely an ‘academic’ exercise. With road traffic accidents the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15–29 years, it is potentially a lifesaver.