Children are one of the most vulnerable road user groups, particularly when exposed to the hazards they meet as pedestrians or cyclists.
Road accidents remain the leading cause of accidental death for children and they can cause life-changing injuries including loss of limbs, spinal injuries and head injuries. Sustaining efforts to reduce the number of children killed and seriously injured on the roads is still vitally important. (Source: Child Accident Prevention Trust)
Every day approximately 7 children aged 0-15 years are killed or seriously injuried on Britain's roads. Among pedestrians who were killed or seriously injured in 2011, 27% were under 16 years old. The overall annual cost of road accident fatalities and serious injuries among children stands at £547 million.
Serious injuries suffered in a road accident can have an impact on a child for the rest of their life – they can affect physical and cognitive abilities, as well as psychological wellbeing. The child may have to spend a significant amount of time in hospital and require long-term treatment as an outpatient. Their physical abilities after the accident may be altered, for example if they have sustained a spinal injury or lost limbs or sight. Head injuries can result in changes to cognitive abilities and personality.
Individuals can experience vivid, traumatic flashbacks of the accident. Post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety are all common after a serious road accident, and children who suffer any of these conditions will need ongoing psychological care to achieve good mental health.
(Source: Child Accident Prevention Trust)
The national target set by the Government in the year 2000 for reducing the numbers of children who were Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) in road traffic collisions was achieved by Slough in 2010, although there has been an increase since 2008. Since then, there have been no new targets set by the Government as local authorities are encouraged to set their own targets based on the specific needs of their local area.
There were 68 children injured on the roads of Slough in 2014. Unfortunately, total numbers of child casualties on Slough’s roads have been rising fairly steadily since 2008, though when the increase in the under-18 population of Slough is taken into account, this change is less marked (Figure 1).The numbers of those who have been killed or seriously injured (KSI) in a road traffic collision have remained relatively static.
In 2014, just over half of child casualties (53%) were passengers in cars but the severity of the associated injuries was relatively low due to the various safety improvements in modern vehicles. The proportion of child casualties who were injured whilst on foot was 31%, making them the highest priority group to target in terms of casualty reduction plans. 16% of child casualties were cyclists and whilst this accounts for a small proportion of child casualties, the potential for more severe injuries places them high on the list of challenges.
Figure 2 illustrates the proportion of road injuries that happen to children while on foot according to their age and gender. The most notable trend in this data is the increase in number of injuries with age, and the predominance of injuries of boys in the under 10 age group, with a more even split in those aged 11 and over.
The vast majority of child pedestrian collisions occur away from controlled crossing facilities such as Pelican, Puffin or Zebra crossings. A child’s behaviour appears to be an important factor when involved in these collisions: “Failed to look properly” and “Crossed road masked by stationary vehicle” were regularly cited in the collision reports produced by Thames Valley Police who attended the scene.
For child cyclists, Figure 3 shows that road casualties are far less prevalent in the under 10s than in older age groups. Again, boys are over-represented in terms of inuries though the difference is more stark than for pedestrian injuries. The overrepresentation of boys in these figures may be due to a larger number cycling; boys tending to cycle further and more often; boys cycling in more hazardous areas; or different risk-based behavioural patterns between boys and girls. It is difficult to pinpoint one specific underlying cause and further investigation is required.
Similarly to child pedestrian casualties, it is often reported that a child cyclist “entered road without looking” which suggests that children sometimes swap between the pavement and road without considering what traffic may already be there. Frequent use of the pavement by child cyclists also results in them being involved in collisions with vehicles entering and exiting a private drive.
It is a regularly quoted statistic that, nationally, a quarter of all young men who die by the age of 25 are killed in road traffic collisions. Young Slough drivers (aged 16-24) are over-represented in vehicle collisions, compared with the national rate.
However, the number of young people injured in road traffic collisions in Slough has been slowly reducing since 2008, and in 2014 this number reached an important milestone by being the first year to have fewer than 100 casualties in this particular group (Figure 4).
This is a significant achievement and may be due, in part, to the ongoing high quality delivery of road safety messages via the annual ‘Safe Drive Stay Alive’ event, coordinated in part by the Road Safety Officer.
However, it is important not to become complacent as 20% of all collisions resulting in death or serious injury in Slough involve these young drivers and it is vital that positive road safety education and intervention continues with this key age group.
In respect of young drivers, the ratio of injured passengers to drivers is a third higher for young drivers then it is for all other drivers. Not only are young drivers having more frequent, more serious collisions but more people are being injured in them.
A number of trends have been identified from the collision reports filed by attending Thames Valley Police and these are:
None of these factors is a new or unexpected feature of collisions involving young drivers, but each remains a difficult behavioural obstacle to overcome.
On 11th May 2011, the Department for Transport (DfT) published a Strategic Framework for Road Safety which included some key themes but did not set any new national or local targets.
In recent years the Government has made changes to the way road safety is funded at local level. In March 2011 a capital grant was stopped which was ring-fenced for maintaining speed cameras and also paid for collision data analysis and promotional support through the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership.
Although the Partnership was subsequently dissolved, in order not to lose the expertise and local knowledge gained through 11 years of progressive road safety work, the participants (the Berkshire authorities and Road Safety Analysis) formed ‘Safer Roads Berkshire’. Through Safer Roads, road safety funding is being used to develop targeted education and enforcement initiatives.
The draft local Road Safety Strategy is currently being developed by Slough Borough Council’s (SBC) Road Safety Team. It is based on detailed collision data analysis, local knowledge and an appreciation of the demographic diversity of our residents. The Road Safety Strategy also aims to reflect the priorities set out in the following adopted Council documents:
Slough’s Five Year Plan aims to make Slough a place where people can make good choices about where to live and work and where children can grow up to achieve their full potential. Outcomes 4 and 5 aim to make Slough one of the safest places in the Thames Valley and for children and young people in Slough to be healthy, resilient and have positive life chances.
Slough’s Sustainable Community Strategy sets out a vision for transport in Slough which outlines a shift away from the domination of car use to the majority of residents walking and cycling in safety.
Policy 7 in the Local Development Framework Core Strategy aims to encourage more sustainable modes of travel by enhancing provisions.
Our third Local Transport Plan (LTP3) is focussed on reducing CO2 emissions by reducing congestion and on facilitating the shift to sustainable travel modes by improving infrastructure and promoting the alternatives.
Slough is currently investing £4.3 million from the Government's Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) to ease congestion, improve air quality and make the town's transport more sustainable.
This information tells us that Slough’s child and young person road safety record has not significantly improved in the last ten years and we still have a very long way go, particularly with the more vulnerable user groups such as pedestrians and cyclists. However, given the priorities and outcomes laid out in the Five Year Plan, it is the Road Safety team’s aim to continue to encourage children and young people to walk and cycle but to provide them with the education and tools to enable them to do this as safely as possible, helping to reduce the casualty figures.
It is also vital that we continue to engage with our young drivers, to ensure that as many as possible can be communicated with regarding the road safety message. Enabling our young people to be safe and responsible road users is essential to the delivery of the Five Year Plan in terms of making Slough one of the safest places in the Thames Valley and to effectively tackle our road traffic casualty figures.
Nationally, the evidence is clear that children in deprived areas have an elevated risk of injury and death compared with children living in more affluent areas. This may be due to some or all of these factors:
What are the unmet needs / service gaps?
The whole of Slough should be considered when targeting resources to deliver the road safety message. Engineering schemes can be delivered on a priority basis but only when funding becomes available.
Enforcement of driving related offences such as mobile phone use, speeding, and seatbelt misuse is ongoing and Borough-wide.
Education of the population is currently targeted at children, mostly through schools work and is currently delivered at no cost to the schools. However, due to severe budgetary constraints, this service can no longer be delivered for free and charging the schools for road safety education will begin in September 2015.
Connecting with parents, young people and communities in general is an essential part of the road safety and casualty reduction plan.