Recommendations made to reduce injuries and fatalities amongst children.
Today sees the publication of a report by Public Health England in conjunction with RoSPA and the Child Accident Prevention Trust on “Reducing Unintentional Injuries on the Roads Amongst Children and Young People under 25”.
Upon first reading, and despite a reduction in fatalities and injuries generally, there are still some depressing and worrying statistics. In the study period from 2008 to 2012 there were more than 320 000 road casualties and 2300 deaths amongst young people and children under 25.
It is also apparent that what might at first sight seem to be an issue which simply causes indiscriminate heartbreak and injury, in fact there is a strong element of health inequality in injuries on the road. Children who live in more deprived areas are at a much greater risk than children from the most affluent. There would be about 800 less serious and fatal injuries to child pedestrians annually, and 136 less serious or fatal accidents to young cyclists, if all children had a risk as low as the children from the least deprived areas.
However, there is good news, something which must be applauded and built upon. The report has recognised that many local authorities across the country have introduced a range of measures to reduce the number of casualties, and with positive effect.
The report goes on to identify three factors which it recommends should be implemented to build on these foundations, and the goal must be to reduce the number of incidents year on year and to make our roads safe for young people. The recommendations made today are:-
1. Improve safety for children travelling to and from school
The biggest numbers of child injuries occur at the times of the “school run”. The report says local authorities should work with schools to develop travel plans to encourage active travel to and from school and to consider safety issues throughout the whole journey. Where necessary these travel plans should be supported by road engineering measures to reduce vehicle speeds. Greater enforcement of traffic law is also mentioned. Although not expressly referred to, if resourcing were not an issue, a model from the USA where Traffic Patrol Officers routinely and visibly patrol in school areas is likely to bring some positive change in behaviour from all road users.
2. Introduce 20mph limits in priority areas as part of a safe system approach to road safety
A safe system approach is recommended as a proactive way of improving road safety. It has to be acknowledged that human beings do make errors in traffic, but road design can be fundamental in preventing these errors from causing fatal or serious injury. Introducing 20mph limits and zones in relevant areas is likely to both prevent injuries and reduce their severity. This should be coupled with education and publicity, appropriate road engineering measures, and enforcement activities. Education and publicity remains vital in getting “buy in” from all people using the roads.
3. Action to prevent traffic injury and improve health must be co-ordinated
Research shows there are many effective things that can be done to prevent traffic injuries. These often coincide with other ways of achieving public policy goals or can improve other areas of public health. It follows that actions to prevent traffic injury are therefore most effective when co-ordinated within local authorities with the efforts to encourage active travel and create liveable streets. The authors of the report believe that strong local partnerships work better than single agencies in tackling the wide range of factors which cause injuries and in particular the health inequalities of road injuries and fatalities. Such local partnerships could include communities, fire and rescue, police, schools, health services and businesses.
What can you do?
The full report is available here.
Make sure your child’s school knows of the report. Ask them what they are doing in partnership with the Local Authority, Police, Fire Service and other Stakeholders. Maybe ask that the School Governors consider the report at their next meeting. The report provides a four step plan to be followed to achieve its objectives, and Local Authorities and Schools can use this as a tool to make sure they are doing all they can to reduce injuries and fatalities.
In short, raising awareness of the issues, and encouraging schools and local authorities to build upon much of the good work already being done across the country, can only lead to further reductions in fatalities and serious injuries amongst children and young people, and prevent the heartbreak and devastating consequences which follow.