Children and road safety


Quote in 2 Mins
Retrieve a quote »

Children and road safety

Every year children are killed and seriously injured from being run over by moving vehicles. While the majority of these accidents happen on our roads, a significant number occur at low speeds around the home or in non-traffic locations such as car parks and slow roads such as those in universities, hospitals, and schoolsi.

Teaching children to recognise dangerous situations on the road can reduce their risk of injuries.

Over a ten year period (2001-2010), 270 child pedestrians aged 0-14 years were killed in land transport accidents (i.e. hit by a moving vehicle)ii. In the eight year period 2002-3 to 2009-10, 5216 children aged 0-14 years were seriously injured under the same circumstancesii. On average, 7 child pedestrians aged 0-14 years were killed each year (of the 10 years) and 60 were seriously injured each year (of the 8 years) from "driveway" accidents (when the vehicle is being driven about the home)iii.

Beyond the home

Around the home

Source: BITRE, 2012, Information sheet, Child pedestrian safety: 'driveway deaths' and 'low-speed vehicle run-overs', Australia, 2001-10, http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2012/files/is_043a.pdf

Vehicle accidents happen and often in circumstances beyond our control. Children are at risk around vehicles because they do not have the skills and judgment that come naturally with age and experience. Therefore young, mobile children who do not understand risk are those at most risk of being run overiv.

Development and road safety

One thing we can do to reduce the risk of accidents is to educate children about road safety. It's important that children can identify dangerous situations on the road and how to be safe as pedestrians. Teaching about road safety should take into account the age and cognitive development stage of the childv, as indicated by Di Pietro's 2004 report for the Motor Accidents Authority.

Infants and toddlers

Neural and sensory immaturity means that infants and toddlers 'cannot make any safe judgements about vehicles or the road'vi. Parents/carers should assume full responsibility for the child's safety: the child must be fully supervised when outdoors and should be held when walking in or near trafficvi.

Ages 2 to 5

Children aged 2 to 5 are adventurous but have underdeveloped scanning ability; they also find it difficult to judge speed and distancevii. This means that they are at risk of running into the road to chase a ball, for example. Their knowledge about the road may not be put into practice when distracted; their road skills are somewhat developed but not to the level of independent road use'viii. Di Pietro advises that it is important at this age to not only teach road rules but also to teach the reason behind the ruleviii.

Ages 5 to 12

Between 5 and 7 years, children understand danger 'but have little idea what to look for and what to ignore' when on the roadsix. Demetre & Gaffic found that the vast majority of children 'know' to look for a safe place to cross the road, but only those about 10 years old can find the safe place to cross in a real contextx. Above the age of 7, children can reason causally: they can understand that an action has an effect on something elseix. Consequently, children of these ages should be accompanied near roads and should hold hands with an adult when walking near traffic. Over time, they should be gradually given (limited) responsibility for their safetyx. Di Pietro recommends that children this age should be taught to:

Covering all bases

Practicing good road safety habits can help reduce the risk of accidents on the road. At all stages of development, road safety skills can be learnt and reinforced by imitationxi. With this in mind, the best way for parents to establish positive road safety habits in their children is by setting a good examplexii. This includes involving them in decision making processes, such as choosing safe routes to walk to school or to ride their bike on. You can reinforce road safety ideas by talking together about traffic conditions and decision making on the roadsxi. Similarly, it is important to ensure your child's safety while travelling in the car - you can find our child car safety tips here.

For more information and tips on road safety, check out Raising Children Network, Better Health Channel and Kidsafe


i BITRE, 2012, Information sheet, Child pedestrian safety: 'driveway deaths' and 'low-speed vehicle run-overs', Australia, 2001-10, http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2012/files/is_043a.pdf, p.2

ii BITRE, 2012, Information sheet, Child pedestrian safety: 'driveway deaths' and 'low-speed vehicle run-overs', Australia, 2001-10, http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2012/files/is_043a.pdf, p.3

iii BITRE, 2012, Information sheet, Child pedestrian safety: 'driveway deaths' and 'low-speed vehicle run-overs', Australia, 2001-10, http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2012/files/is_043a.pdf, p.1

iv Pietro, G.D., 2004, Child Development and Road Safety, A report for the Motor Accidents Authority, p.27

v Pietro, G.D., 2004, Child Development and Road Safety, A report for the Motor Accidents Authority, p.3

vi Pietro, G.D., 2004, Child Development and Road Safety, A report for the Motor Accidents Authority, p.8

vii Pietro, G.D., 2004, Child Development and Road Safety, A report for the Motor Accidents Authority, p.15

viii Pietro, G.D., 2004, Child Development and Road Safety, A report for the Motor Accidents Authority, p.16

ix Pietro, G.D., 2004, Child Development and Road Safety, A report for the Motor Accidents Authority, p.20

x Pietro, G.D., 2004, Child Development and Road Safety, A report for the Motor Accidents Authority, p.21

xi Better health Channel, 2012, Child safety - children and road safety, State Government of Victoria, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Child_safety_children_and_road_safety

xii Pietro, G.D., 2004, Child Development and Road Safety, A report for the Motor Accidents Authority, p.29