RSOs ‘ducking the issue’ of children and independent travel

12.00 | 30 November 2016 | | 5 comments

A leading social researcher has suggested that road safety professionals could be doing more to encourage independent travel by children, rather than ‘ducking the issue’.

Kris Beuret, from Social Research Associates, made the claim in a presentation to delegates at the 2016 National Road Safety Conference in Bristol on 15-16 November.

The presentation was based on a paper titled ‘Children and Travel’ authored by the co-presenters which looked at the decline in unaccompanied journeys to school, the ‘lack of strategic age related intervention work’ and the trade-off between lower speeds and an increase in slight child casualties.

The presentation, jointly delivered by Ms Beuret and Heather Ward from UCL, looked at the dilemmas faced by parents and road safety professionals in balancing the need to encourage children to travel independently, with concerns about road and personal safety.

Kris Beuret told delegates that children are spending much more time indoors looking at devices and screens, and making fewer trips whether by car, rail, walking or cycling. They are also making fewer independent trips, especially on the journey to and from school.

She explained that this has wider implications than the obvious because it ‘affects children’s ability to understand some academic subjects’.

Her research, carried out on behalf of the Independent Transport Commission, found that while children want to go out more on their own, parents are often nervous and discourage this.

She said there is a ‘lot of frustration’ among parents and identified a lack of advice and guidance to help them deal with this issue.

She concluded by suggesting that road safety professionals should be developing ‘new approaches to training’ which encourage independence and facilitate children’s desire to play outdoors.

Click here to watch the joint presentation by Kris Beuret and Heather Ward.

Want to know more about children and road safety? 
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre



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    This same message was given by Danny Dorling at a PACTS Westminster lecture some years ago in that the middle classes were “cotton wool balling” their kids by driving them everywhere. It gave both the illusion of safer roads for children and denied them their independent mobility.

    Research has shown that children below teen age cannot reliably assess the speed of vehicles above 20mph and with stopping distance doubling between 20mph and 30mph then these are very good reasons why 20mph limits should apply to roads used by child pedestrians and cyclists.

    In British Social Attitudes Surveys then 73% of those asked said that 20mph was the right limit for residential roads.

    Considering that in the recent referendum only 37% of those asked wanted to leave the EU then perhaps if the government is so concerned about the “will of the people” it should get on and deliver a safer and lower risk road environment for our children, our elderly, our pedestrians, our cyclists and our disabled with a national 20mph limit for restricted roads with exceptions decided by local traffic authority.

    Rod King, Cheshire, 20′ Plenty for Us
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Paul suggests children will only be allowed to cycle to schools and parks when there are safe cycle routes. In many cases there already are. The issue is not just the provision of safe cycle routes, but changing perceptions and convincing people that cycle routes are safe.

    Ray Barnett Norfolk
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    Seems to me that this question has been raised some 5 years too late. At a time of financial constraints and RSOs being laid off, less work can be done in schools teaching young children how to cross roads and how to behave on the pavement. These are things that the police road safety officers in the traffic dept did on a regular basis at all infant and junior schools. I go back obviously in time to the 1970’80’s etc.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    Children will only be allowed to cycle to school, to go to the local park, etc when there are safe cycle routes; lower speeds is not the sole solution as it doesn’t challenge the priority of motors at all junctions whereas safe, well-designed infrastructure can challenge that dominance.

    Paul Gannon UK
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    I understand where Kris and Heather are coming from but there are a couple of major issues to address.

    1. RSOs work for organisations that are normally risk adverse. That organisational culture would have to change first.

    2. “Encouraging independence and facilitate children’s desire to play outdoors” is not actually part of most RSOs job description. It could be, but there are others employed to promote active travel, healthy living , tackling obesity etc.

    Obviously great opportunities here for partnership working and many of us are getting there bit by bit. Takes a long time change the culture and to turn round large organisations.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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