The morning rush can be a difficult time to manage, particularly when the morning routine involves trying to get young children to school on time.  Parents often have to make decisions as to how best to get their child to school in the mornings in as easy and stress free a way as possible to ensure they arrive at school on time and ready to learn.  Indeed, 77% of mum’s have said that the morning rush is the most stressful part of their day.  The decisions made at this time of day therefore may be ones that you may not have taken if not faced with the pressure of the morning rush.

In recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of children travelling to school on push scooters.  This is primarily as it is a fun activity for the child and it ensures that they can travel more quickly in order to get to school on time; a win-win situation for both mother and child.  The use of riding scooters to travel to school has also been greatly encouraged by schools as a sustainable, healthy, convenient and enjoyable way to commute to school with some schools going so far as to provide ‘parking’ for scooters on school grounds.  With obesity amongst children on the rise in the UK, many schools are discouraging driving to school and promoting those activities which get children active.

While there are obvious benefits to the use of scooters on the school run, there are also dangers which many parents may be unaware of or may not have anticipated.  Adrian Walsh, founder of road safety lobbying group RoadSafe has commented that “Parents often ask for guidance on how best to keep their children safe on our roads.  They need to know when and where they may be at risk”.

The number of children under the age of five who are killed or suffer a serious injury on Britain’s roads is now at its highest level in the last 10 years and the accident rate for children in this age group is expected to continue to rise.  This increase can to some degree be attributed to the rise in the use of push scooters, particularly on the school run.  Dan Campsall, director at Road Safety Analysis has commented that “International Research seems to indicate that more children are being injured whilst on scooters – and anecdotally that trend is emerging in the UK”.  New Zealand, for example, has seen five times more accidents over the last five years involving push scooters.  In America, the rate of accidents involving scooters has increased by 700% with 90% of all injuries on scooters involving children.   It appears therefore that the craze for push scooters has crossed the Atlantic and so has the risk of serious injury to children.

There are a number of reasons why push scooters can pose a danger to a child on the school run:

Speed

A child on a scooter will likely be travelling more quickly and so will have less control over the scooter as it is in motion.  This can cause the child to lose control and fall off.  There is also the risk that a child could veer off the pavement and enter the road thereby colliding with a vehicle.  Further, when a child is travelling at a faster speed, there is a temptation for them to continue on into the road when they approach a crossing when they may normally stop and wait had they have been walking.

Distance

Linked to the speed that the child is travelling, it is likely that a child on a push scooter will be travelling a short distance ahead of their guardian whilst on the scooter and are therefore out of their protective reach.  Children, particularly those under five, are known to find it more difficult to anticipate danger and judge distance.  This can put them at risk of serious injury if they take an action not expected by their guardian, such as travelling into the road.  Unfortunately, in these situations parents are usually too far away to do anything to prevent this.

Protective clothing

Parents are less likely to require their child to wear protective clothing, such as a helmet or knee and elbow pads on a scooter than they would if their child was riding their bike to school.  This can mean that should the child be involved in an accident on the way to school that they are less protected and their injuries potentially more serious than they would have been had they have been wearing protective clothing.  Indeed, ROSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) estimates that more than 60% of injuries sustained by children using push scooters could be prevented if protective clothing was worn.

Micro Scooter, a manufacturer of these kinds of push scooters is promoting a ‘Scoot Safe’ campaign.  This campaign has suggested a kind of proficiency training before a child will be allowed to scoot to school.  Indeed, Leeds City Council has implemented a training scheme aimed at 4-11 year olds.  Such a scheme could strike a balance between using such activities as an aid to get your child to school on time, whilst ensuring that the risk to their health and safety remains as low as it can be.

This week is Child Safety Week and research has shown that children are particularly vulnerable to injury during the morning rush, with 30% of parents stating that their child has suffered a serious accident or a near miss during the morning rush. This is a worrying, but understandable statistic as we all struggle to juggle our various commitments to get out of the door on time.  Nevertheless, it is important to highlight the dangers that can occur during the morning rush so that steps can be taken to minimise the risk of serious injury to children.

Whilst push scooters can be a useful aid to speed up the school run there are inherent risks that must be taken into account when deciding whether or not to use them on the school run.  Whilst they can provide a fun and healthy way to travel to school for your child, push scooters can put your child at risk.  Whether this risk is an acceptable one or not is a matter for each individual parent.  So what is the answer – should we avoid push scooters entirely to remove this risk all together?  Should they only be used as a leisure activity and not during the morning rush when the risk of serious injury is that much greater?  Surely, avoiding scooters in their entirety cannot be the answer, but there are steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of serious injury as far as is possible.

  1. Parents should take their child out for a ‘dry run’ of the school route on a day when it will not be busy so that their child can familiarise themselves with the route, i.e. during school holidays or at weekends.  This will ensure that the child has a good understanding of the route and where the road crossings are (and more importantly, when they should stop and wait).  This will also allow the parent to teach the child what an acceptable speed to travel is and how far ahead they will allow the child to travel.
  2. Investigations should also be made as to any proficiency training available in the local area to ensure that the child is as prepared as possible to use a scooter on a public footpath.  A proficiency test is mandatory for children in respect of cycling.  With the ever increasing popularity of scooters, particularly as a mode of travel to school, it seems entirely logical that there should be some form of proficiency training made available for children.
  3. Finally, and potentially most importantly, children should always wear protective clothing such as elbow and knee pads and a helmet.  As above, research carried out by ROSPA has shown that more than 60% of injuries could be avoided if protective clothing had been worn by the child.  All accidents cannot be avoided in every circumstance, but steps can be taken to ensure that if an accident does occur, the injuries are minimised or avoided all together.

Push scooters are the latest craze to hit the UK and one that can provide a fun and healthy way for children to get to school.  There are inherent risks in using scooters which can mean that children have a higher chance of being involved in an accident and thereby suffering serious injury.  Having said this, as long as parents are aware of these risks and take steps to ensure that their child is as a safe as possible on the school run, the push scooter can be a great tool in getting everyone out on time.