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Sunday, October 24, 1999 Published at 00:30 GMT 01:30 UK


Education

New code for child road users

Official campaign highlights the biggest problem

A junior version of the Highway Code has been issued, aimed at keeping children safe on Britain's roads.

But research studies suggest that raising their awareness of the dangers might not be the problem.

The booklet, with cartoon-style illustrations featuring children, has been produced because young cyclists and pedestrians are particularly at risk on the roads.


[ image: Cartoon graphics illustrate good and bad practice]
Cartoon graphics illustrate good and bad practice
Fifty children a day get injured. The peak danger age is 12 - coinciding with the transfer to secondary school - and boys are far more likely than girls to be hurt.

The colourful booklet contains the latest advice from the Driving Standards Agency and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Called Road Code, it tells children all they need to know about crossing the road safely, being a safer cyclist, watching out for other road users, being a 'perfect' passenger, using skateboards and roller blades, and what the law says.

Awareness

The Transport Minister Lord Whitty said: "Young people are important road users who need to know about roads and traffic.

"There are far too many casualties among young people as the volume of traffic continues to increase.


[ image: Research suggests awareness is not the issue]
Research suggests awareness is not the issue
"Continued information and guidance for young people is important to ensure they are vigilant and aware of the dangers of using the roads."

But research published by the British Psychological Society this summer suggested that a large proportion of accidents involving child pedestrians were caused not so much by a lack of road skills, but by children failing to apply them.

Most accidents tend to happen when children apparently run into the road without looking.

There is no evidence that they used "a faulty strategy" for preserving their safety. They are capable of crossing roads safely - but for whatever reason, on the occasion that they get hit they have failed to do so.

Risk not seen

The researchers said there was a clear association between general problem behaviour in children and their being involved in accidents while walking or cycling.

Children who were disobedient, bullying, or who got into fights were three times more likely to have been in an accident.

Other studies found that young children did not recognise dangers in the way that teenagers and adults did, and were more likely to be distracted.

Five year olds think that road users have a duty not to damage things - if someone is hit, it is the driver's fault, regardless of the circumstances.

Older children see the priority as being not to make the sort of mistakes that cause an accident - which might include running out into the road.

Where someone does something risky, but there is no accident, younger children do not see any problem. Older children recognise that what was wrong was the risky behaviour.

  • The Road Code, published by the Stationery Office, is available from most newsagents, price £2.50.



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    Driving Standards Agency

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