Encouraging children to become independent road users

25 Apr 2019 The Human Factor
There are a number of different methods parents can use to promote safe road use in their children. Therefore, those included in the survey were asked how suitable they found each of these options. The most commonly chosen option was that parents should set an example for their children in terms of how to use the road, for example by consistently observing the traffic regulations (82 percent). This is also the best approach from psychological perspective, as learning by example from parents is the most important form of leaning for all children. Explicitly explaining the specific dangers of road use to children also plays an important role (80 percent), though it is even more important to actively help the child to navigate the dangers of road use by practicing with them – a fact recognized by 79 percent of those included in the survey. Accompanying children on routes that they need to take often, such as routes to school or sports clubs, and testing out these routes on foot or by bike together with the child is also seen as an important means of improving independence and ensuring that children use the road more safely (80 percent).
73 percent believe that it very is important to explain to children what signs on the roads and crosswalks mean in order to encourage safe road use. Around two thirds of those surveyed believed that training children to ride a bicycle or scooter safely (69 percent) and working with their children to define a safe route to use regularly to travel to and from school (67 percent) were very important measures.
In terms of practical exercises, women were more likely than men to say that they considered the measures in question to be very important in encouraging their children to use the road safely. In addition to this, 60 percent of those surveyed believed it was very helpful to dress their children in high-visibility clothing to ensure that they would be noticed by other road users. This measure was particularly popular among parents of younger children. It would be preferable to campaign at all levels for this measure to be used for children in all age groups.
When asked which of the options provided they had utilized at least once in order to promote safe road use in their children, between 70 and 85 percent of those surveyed (depending on the measure in question) said that they had already explained specific dangers and road signs to their children, practiced routes and dangerous situations with them, and trained their children in the use of scooters or bicycles. Due to the high risk of injury for children, especially those on bicycles, the latter measure in particular is of great importance.
70 percent of those surveyed had decided on a route to school together with their child. 60 percent said that they had dressed their children in high-visibility clothing to ensure that they were seen by other road users, though this is still used too rarely as a means of increasing visibility.
Only a small number of those included in the survey had watched videos or clips on road safety with their children, or used road playmats. Women were generally more likely than men to say that they had tried the different options at least once in an effort to encourage their children to behave more safely on and around roads.
All in all, the issue of the school run was relevant to less than a quarter of the parents included in the sample group. Three quarters were confident that their children could make their own way to and from school by foot or using public transport and took steps to help their children develop the abilities required to do so. The techniques that yielded the most success in this were practical exercises such as trying out routes together with children, drawing their attention to dangers and traffic signs, and training them to ride bicycles or scooters. It would be good to see an increase in active safety, for example in the form of reflective clothing being worn by children in all age groups.
Views on how children get to school from the perspective of the rest of the population
In addition to this, those included in the survey who did not have children of mandatory school age were also asked their opinion on cars performing school runs. No distinction was made between households that did not yet have children of mandatory school age, those that no longer had them, and those that had never had them. This part of the survey was restricted to elementary school children. Only a small number of those surveyed (11 percent) said they generally had no problem with parents driving their children to school by car in the morning. Acceptable reasons given by this subgroup included school routes that were too complex for the children and contained difficult traffic situations (70 percent), the risk of children being harassed by strangers (68 percent), and saving time (60 percent).
The vast majority (86 percent) of those included in the survey who did not have children of mandatory school age said that children should not be driven to school by car if this could be avoided. The main reason given for this opinion was the belief that children should learn how to get to and from school safely and independently (90 percent). 77 percent also said that children walk to school with other children and should socialize with their peers, while 61 percent said that cars put a strain on the environment and disturbed local residents. This figure was much higher than in the subgroup of parents with children of mandatory school age (23 percent). 40 percent reasoned that doing the school run by car was not necessary because most towns, cities and communities offered good public transport connections. 37 percent said it was too dangerous for all parents to drive their children to school.
As such, the acceptance for parents doing the school run is extremely low among non-parents. Just like the parents who did not drive their children to school, they were in favor of the opportunities to develop abilities and skills that children stood to gain from making their own way to and from school.