In 2018 14,254 children were involved in road traffic accidents, a shocking 58% of road fatalities occurred to pedestrians under the age of 15.[i]
Children are exposed to the dangers of the road every time they step out of their homes, none more so than on their journey to and from school. 98% of 5-10-year olds are usually accompanied to school by an adult and only 57% of 11-16-year olds usually have an adult companion on their journey.
It is imperative that both teachers and parents educate their children about the dangers of the roads.
A good starting point for children of all ages is to begin a discussion on how children get to school such as walking, cycling, in the car or public transport. When appropriate, you may wish to talk about the good and bad points for each option. These could include, but are not limited to:
Health – Mental and physical. The governments National Travel Survey figures show that the number of children who walk or cycle to school has fallen from 53% to 51%.
Environment – The average drive to school and back creates 800g of CO2 that is released into the air and contributes towards climate change.
Social – Time to talk to parents, siblings and friends.
Weather – How does the weather affect how you travel?
Discussing the dangers
This can then lead to a discussion on the dangers of travelling to school and the implications:
• Parking on the yellow lines outside of the school and near designated crossings.
• Crossing the road whilst using a mobile phone – a 2018 poll found that 1 in 4 children under the age of 6 has a smartphone and the national office for statistics found that over 12 million children under the age of 16 own a mobile phone[ii].
• Not wearing a seatbelt or using the correct car seat – The law states that children must use the correct car seat for their height or weight until they reach 135cm tall or their 12th birthday, whichever is first. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that any child under 14 is wearing a seatbelt[iii].
• Cycling without a helmet – whilst it is not the law, a Cochrane review suggested that cycle helmets decrease the risk of brain and head injuries by 65%-88%[iv].
• Visibility – wearing dark clothes at night may make you invisible to other road users.
Encouraging problem solving
Get your pupils problem solving by asking them what can be done to improve safety on their way to school, such as:
• Holding a responsible adult’s hand
• Wearing a correctly fitted cycle helmet
• Using a seatbelt & child seat
• Using designated crossing areas such as pelican and zebra crossings – how many types of crossings can your pupils name?
• Wearing bright and highly reflective clothing when it is dark or weather conditions are bad.
For a more practical solution get your pupils involved in designing products to make them more visible on their journey.
Supporting Road Safety Week
The Chapter 8 Shop road safety awareness campaign has been created to support the education of primary school children in the importance of being visible now that darker nights are upon, run in conjunction with Road Safety Week 18 – 24 November.
Chapter 8 Shop are specialists in the manufacture of chevrons used on vehicles that need to comply with Chapter 8 of the government’s traffic signs manual. The materials they use offer high conspicuity as they are reflective from 400 metres to the highest grade of materials at 1000 metres. As a result of production there are many chevron offcuts left over, and in their endeavour to become more environmentally savvy they wanted to put these materials to good use.
To make the campaign more interactive you are able to order a free pack that includes a selection of reflective chevron offcuts and snap bands.
Once your pack has arrived, download the supporting materials to help your class understand about road safety.
The offcuts in the box can be used to accessorise clothing, bags, helmets and cycles to ensure that the children are seen at night.
The reflective materials allow lights from vehicles to bounce off them, enabling increased visibility at night.
Studies have shown that wearing bright clothing including reflective materials in the dark can help drivers see you three-second sooner.
Get your pupils to put their outwear on and turn the classroom lights off, take a picture to demonstrate how invisible they appear in the dark. Once they have used the reflective strips to accessorise their clothing, turn the lights off again. Demonstrate how reflective the materials appear by directing the light of a torch at the reflective strips – don’t forget to take a picture as evidence!
The images below demonstrate how effective the reflective strips can be and the importance of being seen when trying to cross the road:
This downloadable activity sheet allows your pupils to have a bit of fun whilst learning about the importance of road safety, it includes colouring-in activities and a word search as well as an additional opportunity to use the reflective materials.
Teaching road safety tips
The top five road safety tips for walking or cycling to school are:
① Plan a safe route, avoiding busy roads and stick to the pavement
② Walk with an adult and hold their hand when crossing the road
③ Dress brightly to be seen by using reflective materials
④ Stop, look and listen out for cars
⑤ Find safe places to cross the road
Sourcing other educational sources
Additional educational resources on the importance of road safety can be found here:
Chapter 8 – Road Safety On The School Run
Road Safety Week – Event 18-24 November 2019
Brake – The Road Safety Charity
Think – Department for Transport Road Safety Campaign
[i] Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2018 annual report.
[ii] Mobile phone usage statistics 2019
[iii] The law on seatbelts
[iv] Road safety factsheet 2018