Two thirds of British motorists believe that at least some roads in their local areas are unsafe for families to walk and cycle in, according to a survey published by road safety charity Brake in partnership with insurer Churchill. Brake is asking drivers to do something about that by slowing down to 20mph near schools, nurseries, shops, and in residential areas, it is also promoting Beep Beep! days around the country to help educate children to dangers posed by traffic.
According to Department for Transport figures released this week, almost 2,000 children were seriously injured on Britain’s roads in 2013 and 48 lost their lives, the vast majority of those casualties, 83 per cent, on foot or riding a bike
Beep Beep! Days take place in nurseries and pre-schools around the country, many of them in National Road Safety Week which runs from 17-23 November this year. Some 27,000 children participated in one during 2013, says Brake, which adds that more than 32,500 are already registered to take part in one this year..
As part of their initiative, Brake and Churchill are urging motorists to help improve the safety of children near schools, nurseries and shops and in residential areas by slowing down to no more than 20mph.
It survey of 1,000 motorists, conducted by opinion pollsters Surveygoo, found that 16 per cent of motorists, nearly one in six, admitted they had experienced a near miss with a pedestrian or cyclist within the past 12 months, and that nearly two thirds, 62 per cent, admitted being worried themselves about being struck by vehicles when walking around their local area.
While 36 per cent of drivers said that they believed it was safe for families to walk and cycle in most or all of their local areas, 57 per cent thought that only applied to some parts of their neighbourhood, and 7 per cent stated it was unsafe in most or all of the area they live in.
Male drivers were more likely than female ones to have had a near-miss with a cyclist or pedestrian within the past 12 months, including where they had to stop and swerve, at 18 per cent versus 10 per cent. Meanwhile 3 per cent of men who drive admitted they had hit someone, versus 1 per cent of women.
An equal percentage, 1 per cent, of male and female motorists confessed to hitting someone who sustained minor injuries, although none said that the person concerned had to go to hospital or suffered serious or long-term injuries.
More than four in five drivers, 82 per cent, claimed never to have hit someone, while 3 per cent said that they themselves had been struck while travelling on foot or riding a bike.
Just one in three people – 34 per cent – claimed never to be worried about being hit by traffic when walking around the area where they live, while 48 per cent worry occasionally, 10 per cent often but not every time, and 4 per cent whenever they are out on foot locally.
A handful – 1 per cent – never or hardly ever walk on the streets where they live because they believe they are too dangerous, while 3 per cent said they did not do so because of other reasons.
Brake’s deputy chief executive, Julie Townsend, said: "It's vital we make our roads safer for families and people of all ages to walk and cycle, and drivers can help bring this about.
“It is unacceptable that five children are seriously injured or killed each day on our roads, and it is unacceptable to deny any child a healthy, active upbringing because of local dangers.
“Our survey reveals that drivers acknowledge the risks families face on roads – but we also need drivers to realise the difference they personally can made, and always drive as though a child could run out unexpectedly.
“As thousands of tots gear up to take part in a Beep Beep! Day this autumn, to start learning about dangers on roads, we're appealing to drivers everywhere to help reduce those dangers: slow down to 20mph in communities to help save little lives.
“We're also urging more pre-schools and nursery to register to be part of this important project," she concluded.
"We are very proud to be supporting Beep Beep! Day once again this year,” added Gus Park, director of Churchill Car Insurance. “Too many children die or are seriously injured on our roads each day,” he continued.
“Beep Beep! Day is a great way of starting to educate young children on road safety, as well as raising awareness among drivers, including parents and grandparents, of the need to drive with extreme care when young children are about."
The events are targeted at children aged two to seven years, and helps them learn the basics of road safety through taking part in fun activities such as playing with toy vehicles to understand the principles of ‘stop’ and ‘go’ or singing road safety songs, as well as helping make parents and motorists aware of what they can do to help make children safe and what their responsibilities are.
Nurseries, playgroups, infant schools, children’s centres and child minders can obtain a free Beep Beep! Day resource pack which includes posters, stickers and ideas for activities from the Brake website, by phoning 01484 550061 or via beepbeep [at] brake.org.uk (email).
Brake’s advice to parents is:
When your child starts to walk with you around your community, talk to them about how they must always hold your hand. If your child is likely to pull away from you, use safety reins or a wrist strap. Hold hands until your child is at least eight, or longer depending on their development.
Make sure they understand the meaning of stop, traffic, danger, look, listen, walk don't run, and other key words. Encourage your child's nursery or playgroup to teach road safety through a Beep Beep! Day. Your child's learning will be more effective if they are taught about road safety at school as well as at home.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.