Improving road safety for child pedestrians

Improving road safety for child pedestrians

by Cheryl Abrahams, Partner at Bolt Burdon Kemp

Cheryl Abraham is mother to two young children and her passion for improved road safety comes from her work acting on behalf of children who suffer brain injuries in road accidents. Through her work, she has seen the devastation that can occur to the child and the whole family when a child is seriously injured in a road accident. 


New government statistics

The government’s recently published data reveals a 16% reduction in the number of children killed or seriously injured in Road Traffic Accidents in England between 2012 and 2016, compared with the previous 4-year period. However, 32,607 killed or injured children is still unacceptably high.

Most of these accidents appear to occur travelling to and from school; child pedestrians in the 10-14 year old age group having the highest number of accidents – typically the age when children start walking to school without an adult.  Clearly, we need to balance encouraging children’s growing sense of independence with the need to protect them – but how do we do that?

Road safety measures

According to the data, the vast majority of accidents involving children happen on 30mph roads and this is particularly true of pedestrians. No single solution can prevent accidents, however a mixture of initiatives could work together to improve the situation.

The ‘School Streets’ initiative bars motor vehicles from schools at pick-up and drop-off times, and is definitely part of the answer in my view.

Reducing vehicle speed is also vital because the data shows that lowering speed can prevent accidents and reduce the severity of injuries suffered, therefore introducing 20mph limits and zones around schools is crucial.

What about controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs)? Although LTNs stop motor vehicles from using quiet, residential roads (often near schools) as shortcuts, they are criticised for increasing traffic on the surrounding border roads. Unless every road on a child’s route to school is closed to motor vehicles, LTNs in isolation are not the answer.

Are schools providing enough education around road safety?

A survey of primary school parents commissioned by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) found that less than 50% of children received any road safety education within the last 12 months in school. All schools in England are obliged to teach road safety as part of the curriculum and are expected to work with the local authority to produce a ‘School Travel Plan’ setting out how to promote safer, active and sustainable travel to and from school.


RoSPA suggests that training needs to be revisited, reinforced and delivered in an age-appropriate way. Training should be conducted on the road using scenarios relevant to children and young people, such as distraction by mobile phones or MP3 players while crossing the road, rather than in the classroom. It also needs to be updated to take into account the dangers posed by new and emerging technologies, such as silent electric cars.

The data shows that road traffic collisions are avoidable with a mix of effective and comprehensive road safety strategies, enforcement and education. We must do all we can to ensure our children are safe when using the road.