Road Safety – advice for all

An increase in road deaths among older motorists and child pedestrians is a serious concern, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Figures released in September 2019 by the Department for Transport (DfT) show that the number of people aged 60 and over killed in reported road accidents has increased from 559 (2017) to 588 (2018). The number of child pedestrians killed rose from 22 (2017) to 28 (2018).

The THINK! website offers important information about road safety for teenagers and younger children through its Tales of the Road section.

THINK! also offer lots of information and advice for adults on how to keep children and young people safe on the roads

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have developed a wide range of free road safety resources and campaign materials which cover topics such as:

All resources are available from their website at www.rospa.com/Road-Safety

Cycle safety

Most children love to cycle and it is a great way for them to keep fit and healthy. It takes a while to learn, but once they’ve got a bike many children will want to push the boundaries, cycling further and faster.

Whether it’s a young child cycling in the park on their first bike, or an older child cycling to school, cycle accidents are a real risk for children and young people. Practitioners can help parents and carers identify the risks with cycling and help their child to manage those risks so they can cycle more safely.

Children aren’t just injured on the road. Many young cyclists collide with objects or other people, or simply fall off their bikes. Over 2,000 children are taken to A&E each year after a cycling accident at home, and a further 21,000 after accidents in places like parks and playgrounds.

Although wearing a cycle helmet is not a legal requirement, the chances of suffering a serious head injury in an accident, for example a fractured skull or brain damage, increase if a child isn’t wearing one.

Cycle safety is not just an issue for cyclists – drivers have to be aware of cyclists, just as the reverse is true. The most serious injuries and deaths occur when a child is hit by traffic on the road. Remember that most parents and carers will also be drivers!

Whether educating parents about cycle safety, or talking directly to children, here are a few suggestions to lower the risk of accidents for children:

  • As children get older, they can learn the rules of the road, and the main dangers to look out for when cycling in traffic.
    • practical training for children is very important and this can be done through local cycle training schemes.
  • Wearing a cycle helmet can save lives and prevent brain damage. Although there is no legal requirement to wear one, recent research shows that:
    • at least 10% of deaths could have been prevented if the cyclist had worn a cycle helmet
    • around 40% of all cyclists admitted to hospital have suffered head injuries
    • in 10% of hospital admissions for serious cycling injuries (skull fractures and brain damage) the injuries could have been prevented or reduced if the cyclist had worn a helmet.
  • Bright coloured, reflective or fluorescent clothing helps children to be seen by other road users, especially at night or in poor weather.

The best way to help a child learn about road safety is to always set a good example. When cycling with a child be sure to:

  • wear a cycle helmet
  • obey traffic signs
  • be considerate of other road users
  • not be distracted by using a mobile phone or listening to music
  • encourage children to notice and discuss what they see around them on the road
  • make sure they know that when they are on the road they need to concentrate and watch out for other road users all the time
  • encourage them to take their own decisions – they shouldn’t blindly follow what others are doing without making their own checks first
  • practice judging speed and distance with them
  • help them work out the safest routes for the journeys they make.

More resources and information:

Find out more about local cycle training from the:

Sustrans and Bikeabilty
Cycle training is available for children and adults to help develop skills and increase confidence. To find out about courses that help a child gain the confidence to cycle to school, phone the National Cycle Training Helpline on 0844 736 8460/8461. Or find out if a child’s school offers Bikeability or Bike It – if the school doesn’t have either, pester them!

Bikeability is ‘cycling proficiency’ for the 21st century. There are three levels to teach a child control, road sense and confidence – and give parents peace of mind! Find out more on their website at bikeability.org.uk

Sustrans is working with hundreds of schools throughout the UK each year to encourage pupils to be more active, enabling thousands of children to travel actively and safely to school; learn more about them on their website at www.sustrans.org.uk

Speeding

Speeding puts everyone in the community at risk of serious injury. But the dangers are particularly acute for children, whose lack of awareness and smaller size leaves them vulnerable to fast moving traffic.

Key messages from Brake and supported by the THINK! Campaign, include:

  • Speed causes deaths and serious injuries on our roads
  • Rural roads are not race tracks
  • 20mph is the only safe speed in heavily built-up areas used by pedestrians and cyclists
  • Going slow = stopping in time
  • Speed is scary and noisy. It stops communities being enjoyable places for children and families to walk, talk and play
  • Speed cameras work. They save lives.

For more information visit the Road Safety week website at www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk

‘Stranger Danger’ or Clever Never Goes 

As children get older they want to be able to explore the outside and online worlds safely.

One of the biggest challenges facing any parent or carer is how to give their child enough freedom to learn for themselves – sometimes from their mistakes – whilst keeping them safe.

Worrying things do sometimes happen; whether it’s something suspicious in the local community or a huge national media story; so there are times when carers need to be able to have a conversation with children and young people, explain possible risks in a clear, calm and rational way, and re-assure them and remind them how to stay safe.

Many parents and schools use ‘stranger danger’ to do this but is may not work. The simple fact is that most strangers would help rather than hurt a child – and the people that do want to hurt children are often not strangers. Teaching children to stay safe by focusing on strangers is not always appropriate.

Clever Never Goes gives parents and teachers a tried and tested replacement for ‘stranger danger’  and allows children to hone their instincts, to spot if someone (anyone) is asking them to go somewhere, and to know what action to take to stay safe.

It is designed to be positive, practical, playful and – above all else – to keep things in perspective. Take a look at our Clever Never Goes resources on their website at clevernevergoes.org

Most importantly, “stranger danger” ignores the fact that most children are abducted by someone they know.

KidSmartz have similar resources to support parents and carers  talk to children about abduction prevention and to identify and respond to threatening situations. Find out more on their website at www.kidsmartz.org/StrangerDanger

The NSPCC has a useful guide to when a child is old enough to be out on their own, and how to teach them to keep safe while they’re away – find this on their website at www.nspcc.org.uk/staying-safe-away-from-home

Safety4kids has a stranger danger safety section aimed at children. It gives age appropriate advice about staying safe  when out and about and can be found on their website at www.safety4kids.com.au/safety-zone_stranger-danger

What else can we do?

In the winter months, the evenings become darker and pedestrians of all ages are reminded to keep themselves safe and be aware of road safety.

Sometimes young people forget the good habits they learned as a child. Road incidents are a major cause of injury and death for young people in the UK.

The transition between primary and secondary school is a significant factor in child pedestrian casualties as children often begin to walk to school unassisted and have to negotiate unfamiliar routes.

Combined with their ‘risk taking’ tendencies, young people (12-16 years) are one of the most vulnerable groups of road users – they account for 51% of all child (0-16 years) road casualties.

Parents and carers should help to keep children safe by teaching them about road safety when they are out together, showing them how to walk and cross the road safely – and keeping a careful eye on their speed when behind the wheel.

Parents and carers play a crucial role in the development of children’s road safety knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviour and should:

  • teach children to hold hands with an adult whenever they go out
  • use everyday opportunities to teach children about road safety
  • lead by example and wait for the green man at crossings – even when they are in a hurry!
  • take care when reversing their car – small children aren’t always visible in mirrors
  • ensure a child wears appropriate padding and a helmet when skateboarding or cycling.
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