Removing children from the road system leads to a lack of safety training, exposing them to greater risk. Is it time to turn around?
Children aged 0 to 14 years are considered vulnerable road users. This is mainly because they are still developing the cognitive and physical skills needed to move safely in traffic. On average, children also move more often in traffic as vulnerable road users (pedestrians or cyclists). Their limited autonomy also means that their safety in traffic is greatly affected by adults, especially parents or guardians. Fearing that something will happen to them and with the intention of protecting them, they are often further away from the road system. This creates a lack of training and experience, which exposes them to a greater risk, if possible. Is this really the best strategy to protect them?
CHILDREN AND TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS: DATA
A child is any person whose development is between birth and puberty, under 15 years of age. From this age, a person can play a more active role as a road user and participate more independently in traffic. However, children are not a homogeneous group. Age differences are related to different levels of physical and cognitive development. As a result, children’s abilities and their choice of transport vary considerably, as does their impact on traffic and road safety. Between 2010 and 2019, more than 6,120 children died on the roads in the EU. Fortunately, the number of traffic victims has fallen over the last ten years (2.7% in 2010 compared to 2.1% in 2019). In addition to their skills and abilities, the risks that children run in traffic are strongly influenced by adults, especially parents.
FROM CRADLE TO TRAFFIC SAFETY: CHILDREN’S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
When children move on the street, cognitive, sensory and physical development play an important role in keeping them safe:
– Ability to focus on what is happening. Children are active and often impulsive. Between the ages of 5 and 7, they learn to control their attention.
– Be aware of risky situations and handle them properly. Only around the age of 10 can they take preventative measures to avoid a risk.
– Process a large amount of information in a short time. Until the age of 13, most children are unaware of the information needed to cross the road safely.
– Ability to put yourself in the place of other road users. Children assume they are being seen from the moment they see the oncoming vehicle.
Safety depends not only on their age, but the freedom and pleasure of traveling plays a fundamental role.
PREVENTION CAMPAIGNS: ROLE OF PARENTS
Parents and adults play an important role in children’s road safety. They actually provide an important one contribution to road safety training, to teach children basic knowledge and skills in traffic. In fact, children learn by imitating and observing adults. The behaviors that adults unconsciously engage in affects children’s attitudes toward road safety. In recent decades has parents seem to prefer to travel by car. By not letting children walk or cycle, they limit the learning opportunities to become self-employed road users. Moreover, this behavior leads to a vicious circle. The increase in traffic increases the risk of accidents in which the most vulnerable users are killed, which encourages parents to transport their children by car. Bringing children back to the heart of road safety culture therefore, it seems to be the most effective strategy to reduce traffic accidents to date.