The Trend is Positive

26 Apr 2019 News & Campaigns

Traffic accidents that result in severe or fatal injuries to children never stop being shocking – to both the families of those involved and the parties responsible for the accident. In accidents involving under-15-year-olds, these culpable parties are often drivers of cars. There have been many positive developments in this area in recent years. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve road safety for this age group, especially in terms of the human factor, vehicle technology and infrastructure.

The trend over the last few years is clear: On the roads of both Europe and other parts of the world, the number of children under the age of 15 who lose their lives in traffic accidents is happily decreasing. Whereas 1,325 children in this age group were victims of such accidents in the EU in 2005, “only” 593 children were killed on the roads in 2017. That is a decrease of 55 percent. This figure has not dropped as dramatically in the USA. While the country’s figures for 2017 have yet to be published, between 2005 and 2016 the number of children killed in traffic accidents dropped by 37 percent, from 1,955 to 1,233. But that is by no means a reason for us to rest on our laurels, especially as the preliminary accident figures for Germany for 2018, for example, show that the number of deaths has increased once more. Furthermore, the figures for Africa and Asia presented in this Report confirm that there are still immense challenges ahead for those in charge, especially in these regions. There are plenty of areas where lasting improvement is required.
One of our most important tasks in this regard is without doubt providing road safety education – preferably starting at preschool age as, depending on their development, children are often unable to make the right choice in dangerous situations. With this in mind, we need to explain enough about the risks of road use to children for them to acquire an awareness of safety from as early an age as possible. In addition to this, however, all other road users should be made more aware of the particular behavior of children in road traffic. Adult road users, and especially parents, need to be aware of their status as role models and ensure that they are always setting a good example – through measures such as wearing a bicycle helmet and behaving correctly when crossing a road. The fact is, children often imitate the behavior they see in “grown-ups”. Unfortunately, this can lead to fatal mistakes in real-life situations.
In addition to providing adequate road safety education, it is also important that we establish a safe road infrastructure in the vicinity of kindergartens and schools. This can take the form of speed reduction measures, for example – a consideration that is also important due to the severe effects of collision speed on the severity of the injury. In terms of the areas surrounding kindergartens and schools, it is also important to remember the issue of the “school run”. It should go without saying that parents who drive their children to school and drop them off more or less on the doorstep have the child’s best interests at heart, but it doesn’t help them to learn how to use the road independently and safely. On top of this, the chaos on the roads around kindergartens and schools in the morning often leads to risky situations.
The benefits of maximized infrastructure quality with intact, well-lit streets, speed monitoring points in high-risk areas, suitable signage in the vicinity of kindergartens and schools, and many other measures can be supplemented by road users – especially children – contributing to their own safety, for example by wearing high-contrast clothing with reflective elements, and ensuring that their bicycles have working lighting equipment. This makes it easier for drivers to see children – especially at dusk, in the dark or in the dim light of fall.
One frequent cause of accidents, as DEKRA has pointed out many times in previous Road Safety Reports, is human errors in traffic – including things like distraction. Regardless of whether one is only using the satnav briefly, adjusting the volume of the radio or the temperature of the air conditioning system, a few seconds are all it takes to cover several meters driving blind, even at low speed. In such situations, features like automatic emergency brake assistance systems with cyclist and pedestrian detection have the potential to be of great benefit. The same applies to cases where children move carelessly in traffic and suddenly run into the street, or endanger themselves by making other mistakes.
However, as has been stated in previous DEKRA Road Safety Reports, there is one clear requirement we should never forget: If we want to prevent as many dangerous situations as possible on the roads before they even occur, it remains absolutely essential for all road users to behave responsibly, be realistic when judging their own abilities, and demonstrate a high level of acceptance for the rules and regulations. After all, the person at the steering wheel is still the one with the most potential to affect whether or not an accident occurs. No matter how good our vehicle technology becomes and how much we perfect our road infrastructure, nothing will alter that fact.