Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by The Traffic and Children Coalition (RTS 47)



  The Traffic and Children Coalition is a new alliance of charities concerned about the impact of traffic on children. Its members are the Child Accident Prevention Trust, the Child Poverty Action Group, the Children's Play Council, the National Children's Bureau, the National Family and Parenting Institute, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, RoadPeace (the National Charity for Road Traffic Victims) and Sustrans (Safe Routes to School). The Coalition aims to ensure that children's views and needs are properly recognised in transport policy.

  The Traffic and Children Coalition welcomes the opportunity to give a submission to this new inquiry into the nature and effects of illegal and inappropriate road traffic speed in the United Kingdom. Our submission focuses on the impact of inappropriate and illegal speed on children, and on the key measures needed to tackle the problem.

  There is overwhelming evidence that children suffer greatly from speed—not just as the victims of road crashes, but also through loss of freedom and independent mobility. But there is also strong evidence about the ways forward, namely measures to reduce speeds in areas where children live. Hence our key recommendation is for well enforced 20 mph speed limits around all schools and parks as the first step in making villages, towns and cities safer and healthier for children.


  We do not think that we can set out the problems more clearly than Professor Sian Griffiths OBE, President of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, in her recent open letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.[64] Our response draws extensively on Prof Griffiths' letter, quoted in indented paragraphs throughout this submission.

2.1  Excessive speed is a major cause of deaths and injuries, especially in children

    "Speeding is dangerous for the driver (for whom it is a self-imposed risk), passengers and other motorists, but it is especially dangerous for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, particularly children and older people."

  According to the Government, inappropriate and excessive speed on the roads account for 1,200 deaths a year and over 100,000 injuries. It is also recognised that speed is a major contributor to road crashes.[65]

    "Trauma is the most common cause of death among children, and road traffic injuries account for half of these. Two thirds of deaths and serious injuries among children involve child pedestrians injured in road crashes."

  The massive impact of road casualties on children, families and costs to society as well as the lack of support systems to deal with the consequences have been described in many studies. The number of children killed and seriously injured in car crashes is many times higher than the number harmed by strangers, another child safety issue of major public concern. It is our view that in relation to strangers, the key issue is the perceived fear of abduction or assault, not the actual level of risk (which is extremely low). This is tackled in large part by persuading more people to share the streets, through a reduction in the overall level of environmental danger. Reducing traffic speeds clearly has a key role to play in this.

  However, the situation is almost certainly much worse than officially reported. It is generally accepted that there is significant under reporting of serious and slight injuries as many road traffic incidents are not reported to the police.[66], [67], [68] There is also evidence of injury severity misclassification by the police within reported casualties. Finally, reporting rules ensure that anyone dying more than 30 days after a collision is classified as seriously injured. A major national study comparing hospital and police casualty data indicated that "to take account of the differences between police and hospital recorded data, it was estimated that the number of seriously injured casualties in national casualty data should be increased by a factor of 2.76 and the number of slight casualties should be increased by 1.70".[69]

    "The death rate from road traffic injuries for children in the UK is twice the European average. Most of these injuries occur in urban areas".

  Government research shows that lack of speed restrictions, rather than increased exposure to traffic, accounts for the excess deaths among child pedestrians in the UK compared with other European countries such as France and the Netherlands.[70] Some key findings indicate that child pedestrian casualties peak at about the age of 12 and child cyclist casualties at about the age of 14. For this particular group, exposure levels may have changed little over decades and it has been shown that the risk of being killed nearly doubled between 1955 and 1987.[71] Overall, nearly a fifth of these casualties happen on the school journey, but this proportion increases for secondary school aged children. It also appears that children in Britain spend more time near or crossing major roads, wide roads, roads with higher traffic flows and roads of higher speeds. In Britain fewer crossings are made using marked crossings than in France and the Netherlands. In addition, traffic calming and special measures to slow traffic are more common in the Netherlands.[72] Their current goal is to have 50 per cent of all potential living zones with a 30 km/hr speed limit by 2002.

    "Even apparently low levels of speeding pose significant risks. For each 1 per cent increase in speed there is a 5 per cent increase in mortality; in many urban and residential situations travelling at the legal speed limit may be too fast".

2.2  The adverse health impacts of speeding extend far beyond deaths and injuries

    "The commonly held view among some members of the public, and especially among lobbying groups for motorists (is) that traffic speed is only a problem if someone gets killed or seriously injured. In contrast, we take the view that excess traffic speed has many adverse health effects and that a more holistic approach that promotes safer driving and reduces the social acceptability of driving at excessive speed is needed. Road traffic injuries are, however, only one manifestation of the health impacts of excessive speed. Fast traffic on busy roads impairs pedestrian and cyclist access to goods and services, and leads to community severance. Access is a particular problem for those with impaired mobility, such as the elderly and people with disabilities".

  A major deterioration in children's quality of life has been the increasing loss of their independent mobility with many harmful consequences on their development, as highlighted in Mayer Hillman et al's classic "One False Move" study.[73]

    "Social support networks have a positive protective effect on both physical and mental health, and low levels of social support are strongly associated with excess premature mortality. Excess speed, especially when associated with late braking, increases local air pollution and noise levels with potential adverse effects on respiratory, cardiac and mental health".

2.3  Physical inactivity is a major public health problem

    "Across the United Kingdom physical inactivity now has a greater absolute effect on levels of coronary heart disease than smoking, and the problem is increasing, with dramatic increases in overweight and obesity; this is particularly worrying among children. One of the main reasons for reduced activity levels is the decline of walking and cycling resulting from perceptions of danger from fast traffic".

  Studies of children's changing travel patterns have shown that in 1990 only 7 per cent of seven year olds went to school alone and 47 per cent were taken by car, compared to 1971 when 72 per cent of seven year olds travelled to school unaccompanied (ibid). The latest National Travel Survey data reveals that walking to school among 5-10 year olds between 1985-86 and 1998-2000 has reduced from 67 per cent to 56 per cent respectively. Such a reduction in routine physical activity is reflected in a marked decline in fitness and increase in overweight and obesity. In England between 1984 and 1994 overweight among primary children increased from 5.4 to 9 per cent among boys and from 9.3 to 13.5 per cent.[74]

2.4  Speeding causes health inequalities and social exclusion

    "Speeding contributes to some of the biggest health inequalities in the United Kingdom, particularly in relation to child pedestrian deaths. The Chief Medical Officer has highlighted health inequalities as one of the main themes of his Annual Report. Tackling the problems suffered by disadvantaged people as a result of excess speed and traffic will make a major contribution to meeting the inequalities targets and creating a more equitable society. Children in social class V are four times more likely to die from road crashes than those in social class I; this gap is increasing".

  The 1998 Acheson Report into health inequalities made a specific recommendation for measures to reduce speed. Levels of exposure are greater for children in low income families. It was found that they cross more roads[75] and are more likely to be unaccompanied.[76] A very recent study by the Guild of Experienced Motorists indicates that in the Edinburgh and Lothian region of Scotland youngsters from the poorest districts were almost eight times as likely to be knocked down as those from richer areas. As a result, another study will be conducted to map road incidents and deprivation across the whole of Britain.[77] Furthermore, research also shows that in the UK children of Asian ethnic origin are more at risk, and it is assumed that this may be the case for other ethnic groups although no data is available.[78]

    "People living in deprived areas are the most likely to suffer the adverse health effects of traffic, such as deaths and injuries, respiratory problems from air pollution, stress from noise pollution, and community severance. These problems are all made worse by excessive speed. People without access to cars, especially children, mothers of young children, and those who are unemployed, and older people, are particularly affected".

2.5  Many Families are living in fear

  The present traffic conditions are a major cause of concern not only for the public at large and many parents but also for children themselves with adverse effects on mental health and welfare.[79], [80]

  Crime and Disorder Strategies have highlighted strong community concerns about road danger and speeding traffic.[81] A review conducted by the Association of Chief Police Officers revealed that, when audits asked local people about road safety, 86 per cent of partnership areas rate it as an issue of concern to rank alongside burglaries and muggings. Research by the North Yorkshire Constabulary also found that of the 6,747 people who answered the question "Do you feel your neighbourhood is a safe place for children?" 41 per cent said "No", and of those who said "No" 81 per cent stated that this was due to speeding or other road safety reasons.[82] These are indications that speeding is not just perceived as anti-social but a crime. Adults themselves find it difficult to cope and put up with such high levels of road danger. Parental fears fully reflect this.

  A 1992 report for the Transport Research Laboratory commented on the threat to pedestrians of narrow pavements; speeding traffic, vehicles ignoring red traffic lights, rarely stopping at pedestrian crossings, and going onto the pavement; and of the hazard to cyclists of speeding traffic. In the three areas of London studied, between one-third and half of comments by respondents concerned perceived risk, particularly for children and the elderly.[83]

  In 2001, CAPT surveyed a representative sample of parents of children aged 7-14 about their views and concerns on outdoor play.[84] 38 per cent did not let their children play outside on their own. When asked why, 44 per cent of these cited traffic worries—second only to fear of strangers (73 per cent). 72 per cent of the total sample supported 20 mph zones in residential areas to improve child safety. In Spring 2001, the Children's Play Council and the Children's Society surveyed 800 children aged 4-16 attending holiday playschemes about their outdoor play.[85] Over 60 per cent were worried about playing out of doors. Nearly one in six (17 per cent) cited danger from traffic as the main factor stopping them from playing where they wanted to—in their list of concerns, second only to bullying (25 per cent) and ahead of their parents' fears about strangers (15 per cent). Previous research from work carried out in Birmingham with 9-11 and 13-14 years old also found that children themselves perceive that their ability to lead healthy lives was significantly constrained due to fear of traffic, with serious implications on local travel choices and play.[86] Such findings indicate that road danger and speeding, whether casualties have occurred nor not, have serious detrimental effects on individuals and communities as a whole. They see their rights to exercise freedom of choices and movement curtailed and there is a strong sense that the current environment is far too hostile.


3.1  A change of attitude: Stop blaming the children

  In his paper on "Independent mobility and children's rights" Martin Rosenbaum suggested that in the narrower area of children and road safety two principles should be included.[87] The first is not just to blame the victim. He reported that according to a study of road incidents involving young pedestrians in Birmingham,[88] it was estimated that drivers were exceeding the speed limit in 46 per cent of 50 fatal incidents which occurred in 1983-88. The author of the report pointed out however that the child pedestrian is normally blamed for a road incident by the police and others. He says ". . . those who report accidents on society's behalf (the police) usually see young pedestrians as mainly "at fault", as indeed does society itself . . . Society does not seem to be very critical of the conduct of drivers and so, when an accident occurs, unless the behaviour of the driver is atypical and extreme, it is the typical and often childlike behaviour of the young pedestrian where blame is directed". Blaming children for their own deaths has also been shown in the way inquests presume in favour of the motorists.[89] A 1998 report from the Environmental Law Foundation called for changes to the law to protect vulnerable road users.[90]

  Rosenbaum's second principle is "not just to make the potential victims even more terrified of the threat . . . although this fear has a rational basis. Road traffic is extremely dangerous for children . . . But the aim of policy should be to reduce the dangers which underlie the fear, not treat them as normal and inevitable".

  Mayer Hillman put the present dilemma very clearly: "In terms of children's quality of life as it is affected by the rising volume and speed of traffic, there appear to be two alternative responses: either we can continue to withdraw children from the growing threat that is posed, and inculcate fear in parents and children about the risks, or we can withdraw that threat from the children by `taming' traffic."[91]

3.2  A first step: introduce well-enforced 20 mph speed limits around all schools and parks

  In the face of this major public health crisis with drastic consequences on the life expectancy and quality of life of children, the Traffic and Children Coalition takes the view that there is a very strong case for more widespread lower speed limits in the areas where children live and travel. As a first step we recommend the adoption of well-enforced 20 mph speed limits around all schools, parks and other public open spaces where children play. Effective 20 mph limits are very successful in reducing casualties. There is also evidence, particularly based on experience from elsewhere in Europe, that they play a positive role in improving mobility and quality of life. The measure should also achieve strong public support based on the findings of opinion polls and attitude surveys.

  There is a wealth of evidence that lower speeds and 20 mph zones can benefit vulnerable road users with respect to casualty and speed reduction. A TRL review from 250 zones in England, Wales and Scotland[92] shows that average speeds had fallen by 9 mph; the annual total of crashes fell by 60 per cent, the number of crashes involving children fell by 67 per cent and crashes involving cyclists fell by 29 per cent within five years. The 20 mph zones programme launched by Kingston Upon Hull has been particularly successful, notably in 13 zones where the total number of crashes has fallen by 56 per cent while the number of people killed and seriously injured has fallen by 90 per cent within about four years. Feedback after implementation

of lower speeds has been positive and there were over 70 petitions for traffic calming, as well as three requests for home zones (one from an existing 20 mph zone). The Scottish Trial Programme of advisory 20 mph speed limits shows that even "signs only" measures have been successful in bringing or keeping average speed under 20 mph. However, it is generally recognised that to be more effective, 20 mph speed limits have to be well enforced.

  The experience from Buxtehude in Germany not only shows a reduction in casualties (by 60 per cent) but comprehensive traffic taming measures also led to increases in pedestrian and cycle traffic in the areas of 17 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.[93] In Austria, in the City of Graz as part of a wider integrated transport programme, substantial safety and environment benefits were achieved.[94] The report that describes this case study, funded by the Commission for Integrated Transport, singles out area-wide coverage of 20 mph speed limits as a key best practice lesson from other European countries.

  A recent report93 which examined the effects of six 20 mph zones in NW England showed that the zones had a positive effect upon the environment, though there is less evidence of an effect upon walking, cycling and street activity. The quality of life appears to have slightly improved and residents generally liked the zone measures. The zones were generally standard in terms of the measures used but better results were found where high quality measures were used.

  In the zones where a speed of 20 mph was achieved residents were happier. A high proportion also supported the idea of speed limit of 10 mph in their area. The study concluded that the introduction of 20 mph zones on their own may not be enough to encourage walking and cycling, and that to instil confidence to undertake such activities a further reduced speed limit or reallocation of road space may be necessary to create a safer environment. However research funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 1996 does provide some evidence of an impact on child mobility. It was found that estates with traffic calming and good space in the front street gave the best environment for promoting children's independent outdoor activity. Where estates had these features, nearly one child in four engaged in all kinds of healthy activities—three times the level in poorly designed estates[95]

  There are reasons to believe that there could be widespread support from the public at large for 20 mph speed limits. A recent opinion poll by MORI[96] for the Commission for Integrated Transport found that 68 per cent of those questioned would like to see traffic calming measures in residential areas compared to 19 per cent who opposed this. Another survey in London[97] shows that 56 per cent of people would support the Mayor "imposing a 20 mph speed limit on London streets", while 38 per cent would oppose such an action.


  There is huge irony in the fact that due to traffic danger, to which speed is an integral element, the section of the population most eager to travel by environmentally sustainable and health-promoting modes of travel is restricted from doing so. This is evidenced by the high demand for cycling and walking among school children surveyed for safe routes to schools surveys. Government has it in its power to achieve health, environment, and transport policy goals by reducing the dangers posed to children and young people through policy change and concomitant resourcing to alter the traffic environment in favour of children. Their needs and expectations and those of the local community should be of paramount importance, rather than those of passing motorists.

  Our submission singles out the introduction of well-enforced 20 mph speed limits around schools and parks across the country as a major step to protect children and improve their environment. This is not to ignore other measures which may also play an important part in redressing the balance on our streets in favour of children. But in our view the evidence and arguments in favour of this measure are so strong that its complete omission from any government strategy is all the more striking. If the Committee were to add its weight to the growing call for action, the benefits for children now and in the future could be enormous.



  The Traffic and Children Coalition is grateful to the following for their help in preparing this response:

  Professor Sian Griffiths OBE; Dr Maggie Barker; Dr Adrian Davis; Paige Mitchell; Dr Ian Roberts; Lynn Sloman; Rob Wheway.

January 2002

64   Griffiths S, letter to The Rt Hon Stephen Byers MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, 12 December 2001. Back

65   Finch D, Kompfner P, Lockwood C, and Maycock G, Speed, speed limits and accidents, TRL Project Report 58, Crowthorne, Berkshire: Transport Research Laboratory, 1994. Back

66   Road Accidents in Great Britain (RAGB) 1998: the Casualty Report, HMSO 1998. Back

67   Plowden S and Hillman M, Speed Control and Transport Policy, Policy Studies Institute 1996. Back

68   Broughton J, Keigan M and James FJ, Linkage of hospital trauma and road accident data TRL Report 518, Crowthorne, Berkshire: Transport Research Laboratory. Back

69   Simpson H, Comparison of Hospital and Police Casualty Data: A National Study, TRL Report 173, Crowthorne, Berkshire: Transport Research Laboratory, 1996. Back

70   Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Comparative study of European child pedestrian exposure and accidents, Norwich: HMSO 1999. Back

71   West-Oram F, "Measuring danger on the road", Traffic Engineering and Control 30 (10) 1989. Back

72   TSP Europe, Dutch look to sustainable safety, April 2000. Back

73   Hillman M, Adams J, Whitelegg J, One False Move: A study of children's independent mobility, London: Policy Studies Institute, 1991. Back

74   Chinn S & Rona R "Prevalence and trends in overweight and obesity in three cross sectional studies of British children, 1974-94", British Medical Journal, 322, 2001. Back

75   Davis A, "Inequalities of Health, Road Transport and Pollution" in Gordon D, Shaw M, Dorling D & Davey Smith G (eds). Inequalities in health: the evidence, Bristol: Policy Press, 1999. Back

76   MacGibbon B. 1999, "Inequalities in health related to transport" in Gordon D, Shaw M, Dorling D & Davey Smith G (eds). Inequalities in health: the evidence, Bristol: Policy Press 1999. Back

77   Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Care on the Road, December 2001. Back

78   DETR, Road Accident involvement of children from ethnic minorities: a literature review, Road Safety Research Report No 19, 2001. Back

79   Moore R, Children's domain: Play and place in child development, London: Croom Helm, 1986. Back

80   Keigerreis S, "Independent mobility and child mental and emotional development" in Hillman M (ed) Children, Transport and the Quality of Life, London: Policy Studies Institute, 1993. Back

81   Phillips C, Considine M and Lewis R, A review of audits and strategies produced by Crime and Disorder Partnerships in 1999, Briefing Note 8/00, London: Home Office Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, 2000. Back

82   Slower Speeds Initiative, Killing Speed: a good practice management guide, 2001. Back

83   Smith J and Gurney A, Community effects of traffic congestion: A review of the London Assessment Study Data, Crowthorne, Berkshire: Transport Research Laboratory, 1992. Back

84   Children Accident Prevention Trust, Press Release, June 2001. Back

85   Children's Play Council and Children's Society, Playday Press Release, 1 August 2001. Back

86   Davis A and Jones L, "Environmental constraints on health: listening to children's view, Health Education Journal, 1996. Back

87   Rosenbaum M, "Independent Mobility and children's rights" In Hillman M (ed) Children, Transport and the Quality of Life, London: Policy Studies Institute, 1993. Back

88   Lawson S, Accidents to young pedestrians, Distributions, Circumstances, Consequences and Scope for countermeasures,AA Foundation for Road Safety Research, 1990. Back

89   Roberts I and Coggan C "Blaming children for child pedestrian accidents" Social Science and Medicine, 38 (5) 1994. Back

90   Davis A, Eden H and Stein R, Options for Civilising Road Traffic, London: the Environmental Law Foundation, 1998. Back

91   Hillman M, Children, Transport and the Quality of Life London: Policy Studies Institute, 1993. Back

92   Webster D and Mackie A, A review of traffic calming schemes in 20 mph zones. TRL Report 215, Crowthorne, Berkshire: Transport Research Laboratory, 1996. Back

93   Commission for Integrated Transport, Study of European Best Practice in the Delivery of integrated Transport,Commission for Integrated Transport, 2001. Back

94   Babtie Group,Urban Street Activity in 20 mph zones, 2001. Back

95   Wheway R and Millward A, Child's Play: Facilitating play on housing estates,Coventry: Chartered Institute of Housing, 1997. Back

96   The Commission for Integrated Transport Report 2001: Public attitudes to transport in England, MORI July 2001. Back

97   Evening Standard, 14 April 2000. Back

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