Over 40 percent of kids have experienced a ‘near miss’ on school journey, says survey

Sustrans calls for safer streets for kids; parents say road threat bigger than stranger danger

by John Stevenson   May 13, 2014  

Kids on bikes (CC licensed image by Anne and Tim:Flickr)

Riding or walking to school could be a lot safer, says active travel charity Sustrans, citing the results of a new survey that shows 41 percent of parents say their kids have been involved in some sort of ‘near miss’ while walking or cycling to or from school.

Sustrans today launched its Campaign for Safer Streets. The charity is urging parents to write to their local MP to demand every child be given the right to a safe journey to school.

Safe routes to school has long been a plank of Sustrans’s campaigning platform. Schoolchildren are among the most vulnerable road users, and enabling them to ride or walk to school safely has huge benefits in maintaining their fitness and helping them develop resourcefulness and independence.

The number of children killed or injured on the roads has dropped substantially in recent years, but some commentators have pointed out that this has been at the expense of children’s mobility. If kids are not walking or riding, they’re less likely to get hurt, but the resulting lack of activity contributes to the problem of childhood obesity.

In a survey conducted by YouGov for Sustrans, parents of 5-11 years olds were asked about unsafe roads and unsafe driving that had resulted in a ‘near-miss’ between their child and a vehicle on the way to or from school. Of the parents surveyed:

  • 18% said their child had experienced a vehicle not stopping or stopping too late at a pedestrian crossing
  • 13% said their child had experienced a speeding vehicle nearly hitting them while crossing the road
  • 5% said their child had been hit by a vehicle while walking

Parents are more concerned about road danger than ‘stranger danger’, the survey discovered. Forty-four percent were most concerned about their child crossing the road safely, compared to 28 per cent of parents most concerned about stranger danger.

Sustrans chief executive, Malcolm Shepherd said: “In 2012, 33 children were killed and more than 1800 were seriously injured while walking or cycling – if a whole classroom of children had been killed under other circumstances there would be public outcry.

“And there’s a simple solution in our hands. We must urgently make our roads safer for those children already making a healthy, active school run and also to encourage those who don’t feel safe enough to start walking or cycling.

“With today’s children the least physically active in history, and set to have shorter life expectancies than their parents because of this, shuttling kids to and from the school gate in the car is not the answer.

“Giving children the opportunity to walk, scoot of cycle the school run is vital to their health and wellbeing so making our roads safe enough that they can do this must be a top priority.

“Every child has the right to a safe journey to school; I urge the government to make this a reality – it’s a matter of life and death.”

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

And the insane part, at school run time, any observer can see the problem is the school run, It isn't other commuters, or delivery trucks etc. The problem invariably goes away in the holidays, it is invariably worse on routes leading to schools.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1074 posts]
13th May 2014 - 14:40

like this
Like (45)

problems round my way seem to stem from parents parking on the pavement, causing other people's children to have to walk in the road. Brilliant.

*btw I can't let this go without a 'near miss' comment. It's either a miss, or a near hit. A near miss would be a hit, innit.

posted by andyp [860 posts]
13th May 2014 - 15:25

like this
Like (24)

How to improve the safety of children travelling to and from school? Hmmmm!
How about banning parents from delivering their children by car.

Think about it! Improved air quality, no illegal/dangerous parking (i.e. double parking, obstruction, near junctions, etc.) and less traffic on the roads (particularly near schools).

See if you recognise these scenarios. (I've limited myself to two, you can add more if you want to)
1) Mother arrives with precious cargo, parks two wheels on pavement, gets out leaving engine running, removes child from vehicle, kisses good-bye spends next twenty minutes talking to other parents (engine still running).
2) Mother arrives with some speed, 'abandons' vehicle, child exits, kiss blown, mother roars off at high speed.

Think I'm joking? Within a quarter of a mile of my house I have 1 pre-school, 2 junior schools, a senior school and a sixth form college. It's scary round here at times.

posted by levermonkey [362 posts]
13th May 2014 - 15:51

like this
Like (18)

I'm part of a group comprising parents plus the heads of two primaries that has been badgering TfL to change a busy junction on the A23 in South London. The idea is simply to change it so that it's a box junction with a red light camera, not a big deal and not anything that'll impede traffic flow either, a factor TfL is highly aware of (quite the reverse probably).

There have been numerous near miss incidents, too many to count. There have been no fatalities (yet, but it's a matter of time) however some kids have been knocked down, luckily without serious injury so far. Vehicles regularly run the lights at the junction and both my kids have had close calls there.

TfL however doesn't seem to give a toss, claims it has no record of incidents and refuses to do anything. This is in spite of being shown numerous incident photographs taken by parents and staff, as well as now being given incident reports by the police. Sadly, it will probably take a fatality for TfL's approach to change.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2194 posts]
13th May 2014 - 15:59

like this
Like (24)

What a lousy bit of research. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. 41%? Add them up and it comes to 31%, also how many of each are in both categories? This is Daily Mail journalism.

posted by peterben [36 posts]
13th May 2014 - 17:19

like this
Like (5)

Sustrans and their outdated approach to cycling infrastructure is part of the problem.

posted by bikebot [499 posts]
13th May 2014 - 18:17

like this
Like (9)

cf article on cyclists who dispense justice...

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

cyclingDMlondon's picture

posted by cyclingDMlondon [211 posts]
14th May 2014 - 8:00

like this
Like (6)

I'm lucky in that my kids' school has no car park and there is often a traffic warden nearby keen to ticket anyone parking on the pavement. Also I live in an area where most people are too poor to afford a car.

I would be interested to know by comparison how many kids had been involved in an accident or 'near miss' when travelling to and from school by car, I have a strong suspicion it would be about the same.

posted by drfabulous0 [311 posts]
14th May 2014 - 9:36

like this
Like (11)

think Allianze tv advert .... junior has feet on the passenger
headrest with tiger slippers on, mum looks around and
promptly drives the beemer straight off the road !!!! fast
forward to a school run and ... oh wait ... i'm not still watching
TV !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [698 posts]
14th May 2014 - 10:59

like this
Like (5)

peterben wrote:
What a lousy bit of research. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. 41%? Add them up and it comes to 31%, also how many of each are in both categories? This is Daily Mail journalism.

I think see what you are saying, but I don't see why you assume its necessarily relevant to add up the more specific categories.

Another interpretation is that the 41% comes from a specific question 'has your child been involved in a near-miss?', and the other figures are from other questions asking about more specific issues.

(the 41% figure is from Sustrans' own site, so if its wrong its nothing to do with 'journalists')

The problem is that even on Sustrans's own site they don't make it clear whether it is the case, nor say explicitly what questions were asked in the poll, which does rather create doubt about the whole thing.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [668 posts]
14th May 2014 - 14:55

like this
Like (10)

For some reason editting it made my comment appear twice. Weird.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [668 posts]
14th May 2014 - 14:56

like this
Like (4)

levermonkey wrote:
How to improve the safety of children travelling to and from school? Hmmmm!
How about banning parents from delivering their children by car.

Think about it! Improved air quality, no illegal/dangerous parking (i.e. double parking, obstruction, near junctions, etc.) and less traffic on the roads (particularly near schools).

See if you recognise these scenarios. (I've limited myself to two, you can add more if you want to)
1) Mother arrives with precious cargo, parks two wheels on pavement, gets out leaving engine running, removes child from vehicle, kisses good-bye spends next twenty minutes talking to other parents (engine still running).
2) Mother arrives with some speed, 'abandons' vehicle, child exits, kiss blown, mother roars off at high speed.

Think I'm joking? Within a quarter of a mile of my house I have 1 pre-school, 2 junior schools, a senior school and a sixth form college. It's scary round here at times.

What gets me is how the zig-zag 'no parking for the safety of children' markings at all the schools round here are invariably, come school run time, full of cars parked on them, clearly by the parents of some of the very children that the markings are supposed to be protecting. What is the point of those markings when they are completely ignored?

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [668 posts]
14th May 2014 - 17:25

like this
Like (5)

Parents think that traffic danger is greater than "stranger-danger". Well, I never!

About 100 children die violently at the hands of adults (excluding road deaths, note) every year. The number attributable to adult strangers is variable year by year because the numbers are so low - it averages about 4 or 5 a year. In other words, about 95 a year are killed by adults known to them - family members, "uncles", mum's boyfriends etc.

Curiously, the moving average for death by stranger has basically stayed constant for more than the last 5 decades. Children are at no more danger now from strangers than they were in the middle of the last century.

Certainly it is not that long ago that parents would have believed - incorrectly - that stranger danger has massively increased, but then the population at large massively overestimates all sorts of other "statistics" like how many immigrants live in the UK (32% perceived, about 13% real) how much of the welfare budget is lost to fraud (24% perceived, 0.7% real) etc. They probably get these impressions from the press, not necessarily by misreporting of the numbers, but by the over-emphasis on such cases. No question that a child killed by a stranger makes news while, sadly, a child killed by a stepfather doesn't unless the local social services can be blamed.

Probably, at least until quite recently, people would have driven their kids to school not because they fear traffic, but because they fear strangers, so traffic crept up on them unawares.

Now, just like the old saw "you are not STUCK in traffic, you ARE traffic", your child is endangered by your own behaviour.

How do you break that cycle?

posted by Paul M [309 posts]
14th May 2014 - 17:33

like this
Like (7)