The UK's roads are some of the safest in the world but accidents happen. According to the latest Road Casualties in Great Britain report from the Department for Transport (DfT), 22,807 people were seriously injured and 1,755 people killed on UK roads in 2014.
The number of children seriously injured saw a decline in 2014, reaching the second lowest recorded level at 2,029. But, fatalities grew by 5 compared with 2013 to reach 53. Of the total, 29 were pedestrians, 18 were car occupants, and 6 were pedal cyclists.
The number of children killed or seriously injured's now 30% lower than the 2005-9 average, showing more's being done to protect little ones both on the roads and in cars. Still, there's some way to go before that number falls to zero.
Children may be taught about road safety at school, but as a parent, there are plenty of things you can do to reinforce that learning and help keep them as safe as possible, whether they're a pedestrian or a passenger in a car.
The Green Cross Code's been teaching kids the rules of the road since the 1970s. It's one of the most useful resources out there and is something you should be enforcing whenever you're out and about with a child and need to cross the road. The three steps are:
Stop — find the safest place to cross and stand on the pavement near the kerb or edge if there isn't a kerb.
Look — take time to have a good look around. Make sure you're able to clearly see traffic coming from both directions, and make sure drivers can easily see you.
Listen — listen out for traffic, as sometimes you can hear it but not see it. Cross when it's safe and clear in both directions, while continuing to look and listen out for traffic.
Help your child to learn the names and rules of all the different crossings: zebra, puffin, pelican and footbridges. It's always better to cross at a crossing, even if it requires some walking. It's important to explain you still need to stop and wait at a crossing, just in case drivers don't see you or are too late to react.
Be bright and be seen. Whether you're walking your little one to school or popping to the shops, they need to dress so other drivers can see them. On dull days they should wear bright or fluorescent clothing and accessories, such as high-visibility tabards, rucksacks with high-visibility straps, and fluorescent armbands. If they're walking near traffic at night, reflective armbands and clothing should be worn as fluorescent colours don't show up when it's dark.
Children are likely to imitate your behaviour when you're out and about. If you cross the road while chatting on the phone then you're not setting a good example. Practice what you preach by demonstrating good road safety at all times.
By law, child restraints must be used in cars, vans and any other goods vehicle from birth up to the age of 12 or when the child's reached a height of 135cm (4'5") — whichever comes first. They are then allowed to wear a seatbelt, though a booster seat's still recommended until they reach 150cm (5') tall.
It's the driver's responsibility to make sure children under 14 years old use an appropriate child restraint or wear their seatbelt.
Regular maintenance is key to ensuring your car's safe for transporting you and your little ones around. Things like tyres, oil levels and electrics should be checked fortnightly as well as before any long trip. Need some help? Take a look at our car service checklist to make sure you don't miss anything.
If you're thinking of buying a family car and want to be sure it offers the highest level of safety, the Euro NCAP website provides safety performance ratings for the majority of newer models.
We all know kids learn best when they're having fun, so think of ways you can turn road safety into an educational game. Talking about vehicles you see on the road will increase traffic awareness — ask your child questions such as: 'Where's the biggest vehicle?' 'Where's the brightest vehicle?' 'What type of crossing's this?' 'Is this a safe place to cross?'
You could also point to cars approaching in the distance and get them to tell you whether it would be safe or dangerous to cross the road. Continually asking questions gets younger children thinking of the traffic all the time and reinforces what they've learned.
Aside from that, there are some great online resources you can use, including:
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