It’s Child Safety Week and along with lots of other professionals, organisations, families and carers, I wanted to do my bit to raise awareness to keep children safe from the pain of serious accidents; the aim of the campaign run by The Child Accident Prevention Trust.
Road traffic accidents are some of the most serious accidents involving children because the injuries suffered can be life changing. Sadly in my job as a child brain injury lawyer, I see first- hand the devastation caused when a child suffers serious injuries in a road traffic accident.
Accidents involving my clients
The majority of my clients are pedestrians who suffer serious, life changing brain injuries in road traffic accidents. In my recent blog I dispelled some of the common myths surrounding children and road traffic accident compensation claims.
I will briefly discuss the accident circumstances of two of my clients in order to raise awareness of the types of accidents that I deal with involving child pedestrians.
My client, a 14 year old girl who I shall call Rachel, was hit by a car on her way to school. As a result of the brain injury that Rachel suffered, she had no memory of the accident. The driver told the police that he hadn’t seen Rachel prior to impact because he was putting on music in his car. Upon hearing a loud bang he stopped the car and got out, and that is when he saw Rachel lying in the road.
This is truly shocking, but serves as a warning that child (and adult) pedestrians cannot presume that drivers always have their eyes on the road and that they will be seen when they enter the road.
My client, a 15 year old boy that I shall call James, was hit by a motorcycle as he crossed a road. James was out with a friend on their way to a local park one Sunday afternoon. James was on his skateboard travelling down a residential road and as he passed through a T junction, into another residential road, he was hit by a speeding motorcyclist. James was thrown up into the air and landed in the road. He suffered a brain injury as well as other serious injuries. Witnesses said the motorcyclist was racing another motorbike and they were both travelling at excessive speeds. An independent eye witness said that James failed to stop at the give way line as he entered the road. Had James stopped at the give way line, he may have seen or heard the motorcycle speeding down the road and waited until it was safe to cross the road.
The latest government statistics released in February 2015, show that the number of children killed or seriously injured in road accidents increased by 3 per cent to 2,060 in the year ending September 2014. According to the statistics, the number of children killed or seriously injured on our roads has risen in each quarter of 2014 in comparison with the same periods in 2013. These increases have now resulted in the first rise in child KSI (killed or seriously injured) casualties since the year ending March 1995 .
In 2013, a report entitled ‘Stepping Out’ written by Road Safety Analysis looked at those most at risk of being a pedestrian casualty . The report concluded:
‘The age at which pedestrians are most at risk is 12 years old, with one in 651 children of that age reported as a pedestrian casualty.’
The report highlighted a ‘post-code lottery’ of pedestrian child casualties with up to half of those killed or injured in the worst areas being children. For all pedestrians, Newham in London was the riskiest place with a risk level double that of the national average. It was followed by Hackney, Preston, Haringay, and Blackburn.
The authors found that children were more likely to be injured in spring and summer, excluding August, compared to adults where the danger months are between October and January.
Teaching children about road safety
Road safety and accident prevention organisation do a fantastic job raising awareness about road safety, but is it enough? In view of the latest statistics, and my own experience, I don’t think it is.
When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I was bombarded with TV adverts about the ‘Green Cross Code’. This set of simple road safety rules was drilled into children with the help of Green Cross Code Man played by David Prowse (Darth Vader from Star Wars). It introduced the mantra ‘Stop, look, listen, think,’ which is estimated to have saved many children’s lives, with road deaths and injuries involving children dropping significantly over the years in which the campaign was active .
The Green Cross Code campaign was resurrected in 2014 as part of Road Safety Week and was launched on YouTube . This campaign was launched by an insurance company; More Than.
In my view an insurance company should not be responsible for delivering such an important message, isn’t that the job of the government? In any event the campaign is aimed at adults, not children. I think the government needs to do more.
The last thing we want is for parents to keep their children inside; we know that childhood obesity is a problem.
I would like to see a return of regular TV adverts reminding children about the importance of road safety and repeating the message so that it is drilled into this generation of children like it was for me. Serious research needs to be carried out in order to ensure the adverts will appeal to the children of today. They need a modern hero to deliver the message – Green Cross Code Man is unlikely influence them.
I also think more needs to be done in schools. With the increasing pressures on teachers to get children through GCSEs, I fear that road safety is being squeezed out.