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Teaching Road Safety – A Community Approach

This week is Injury Prevention Week (#IPW2020) and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) are campaigning for better road safety for pedestrians with a focus on children who will be preparing to go back to school in August and September.  Over the course of the week I’ve seen some interesting and worrying posts around this topic.  Annually, around 5,000 children under the age of 16  die or are seriously injured on U.K. roads and nearly 2/3 of these are whilst as pedestrians is staggering.  The fact that scientists have found that children are not safe crossing the road on their own until they are 14 is also surprising given the number of children younger than this who are out independently.

As a parent #IPW2020 has really made me think about child safety and in particular how it is taught and my role in this as a parent.  I have a 6 year old and I’ll be honest – I really worry about her on the roads and pavements.  In so many things she is very mature and beyond her years but road safety seems to be an area she struggles with.  She loves to use her scooter and I want to encourage her independence but when she scoots off ahead my heart is constantly in my mouth as I worry about cars emerging from driveways and not seeing her.  Of course we’ve warned her about risks and told her to ‘look and listen’ but she’s 6 and she lives in the moment.  In the same way we tell her to be socially distant but when she’s running ahead pretending to be Sonic the Hedgehog, those warnings fade into the background.

I asked her this week whether she could cross a road on her own.  She said yes but I wholeheartedly disagree (reference back to the living in the moment).  My next question was whether she has covered any road safety at school (she has done reception and year 1 so far) as I wasn’t aware that she had.  Her answer was no but then she followed this up with maybe so I’m really none the wiser.  All I can say is that, as a parent I haven’t been made aware yet of any road safety that has been taught and it made me realise that, as a parent, I feel very removed from how road safety is currently taught in schools.  The government’s road safety campaign website think.org.uk highlights the importance of parent engagement:

Parental engagement on this topic is crucial. A combined approach between school and home will lead to greater road awareness amongst your students. Why not enable students to share their learning with parents at a road safety assembly or by setting flipped learning tasks? Place information on your website and in your newsletter and work together towards being a road aware community.”

As a parent I wholeheartedly agree with this approach. I want to be involved but not just watching an assembly.  To be honest, if my child is being taught road safety I would like the opportunity to be there – not to supervise but to learn myself!  I recognise that I, like a so many adults, have developed bad habits when it comes to road safety and it wouldn’t do me any harm to have a reminder.  For others it might even give them the opportunity to learn certain things for the first time.  Take APIL’s finding that most non-drivers (56%) don’t know how to tell if a car is about to reverse into them.  Parents can’t teach what they themselves don’t know.

There’s a saying that I am sure you have heard before; that it takes a village to raise a child.  When writing this article I was trying to find the origin for this phrase and failed.  However I came across a 2019 blog written by two doctors for NHS England.  Whilst the content of the blog doesn’t directly translate here, their description of the phrase resonated with me so much that I had to share it here:

“‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – this wonderful saying beautifully captures how an entire community of people must interact with children for them to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.”

We all use the roads and therefore we all have a responsibility to use them safely whether we are driving cars, cycling or walking.  In a similar vein we have a responsibility to educate children so that they can keep themselves safe.  In my mind education is key to prevention so whilst parents must teach their children and schools should be teaching their pupils; as a parent I would say bring the two together and give parents and children an opportunity to learn together to really reinforce good practices.

Victoria Oliver is an associate solicitor in the Spinal Injuries team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.  If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal injury as a result of an accident, someone else’s negligence or you are concerned about the treatment you have received, contact Victoria in confidence on 020 3973 5002 or at victoriaoliver@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors from the Spinal Injury team will contact you.  Find out more about the Spinal Injury team.

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