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Child Safety

Traffic danger
How does affect children?

All parents/guardians are concerned about their child’s safety, but they often perceive the dangers to be far greater than they really are.

The two main areas of concern are fear of and traffic danger and abduction. This information sheet provides some facts and figures about these issues. You may want to use this information to produce a leaflet for parents/guardians and perhaps students to meet some of the aims of your School Travel Plan.

Traffic danger

When asked why parents/guardians drive their children to school, they often state that they feel it is the safest way for their child to travel.

The County Council’s website www.hants.gov.uk/roadsafety/statistics/child.html shows child casualties by district. Vehicle occupancy casualties consistently represent the highest number of casualties for each of the districts shown. Many of these casualties are because the children were not properly restrained in the car. Information for parents on the new child seat legislation is available from the County Council's Road Safety Website http://www.hants.gov.uk/roadsafety/incarsafety/index.html.

Cartoon image of a School Crossing Patrol person.

Whilst parents often believe that car travel is safe, they may perceive walking and cycling to be unsafe. However it has been found that;

In general, higher levels of cycling seem to result in lower accident rates”. [1] In a study comparing cycling statistics from the UK with France, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, it was concluded that “cycling gets safer as it becomes more popular”.[2] 

This is achievable by providing children with the opportunity to undertake good cycle and/or pedestrian training through the County Council.  This could increase their confidence on the road and make then more aware of safety issues and how to overcome them. However, the County Council does not recommend that children under the age of 10 cycle to school. This is based on research data which shows that children under the age of 10 do not have the ability to accurately judge speed and distance.

(See details of Road Safety Team Programmes. Also, for further information on walking and cycling please see the Good Ideas section.)


Following intense media coverage of child abductions over the last few years, many parents/guardians are now restricting their children’s freedom. This has contributed to the increase in the number of children being driven to and from school rather than being allowed to walk or cycle.

However, Most abducted children are done so by a member of their family or someone they know. In 2002/03 only 9% of all child abductions recorded involved strangers successfully abducting children. (Source: Home Office, 2004).

How does this affect children?

Restriction on children’s movements

Restricting a child’s freedom of movement deprives them of the freedom enjoyed by previous generations and also has potentially serious impacts on their physical health and mental development. In the Sustrans leaflet, Safety on the Streets for Children it states; “Restrictions imposed by parents for their children’s safety may actually inhibit physical and mental development leaving tomorrow’s generations poorly equipped to deal with everyday risks and decision making.”

Increasing children’s independence

The school journey is an opportunity for children to gain self confidence and independence. Travelling by car can reduce opportunities for children to learn important life skills and limit their ability to act independently.

Cartoon image of a child cycling in the rain.

Health impacts

Please see our section on Health and Physical Activity

Hampshire County Council’s Road Safety Team has a variety of programmes developed to help improve safety. This includes:

Schools already taking part in these schemes should ensure this is included in their School Travel Plan. If your school is not currently involved in these schemes but would like to be, this should be included in your action plan (see our Example of an Action Plan) and the School Travel Planning Team will help you in taking this forward.

Developing a School Travel Plan will encourage children to look at safety both on their journey to and from school and for day to day journeys outside this time.  

[1] Cairns, Sloman, Newson, Anable, Kirkbride & Goodwin  “Smarter Choices – Changing the Way We Travel” 2004.
[2] Wardlaw, M “Assessing the actual risks faced by cyclists” Traffic Engineering and Control 43 (11) pp420-424  2002