We are all familiar with the road safety talk you get when you are a child, and many of us have gone on to share the same words of wisdom with our children, but how can we be sure our concerns are being taken in? While broaching the subject of road safety isn't difficult, getting children engaged and listening to what you are saying is the main obstacle, as children often assume that they already know how to be safe on the road, and view attempts by adults to discuss the topic more as preaching than something that's for their own good.
With Road Safety Week kicking off across the country on Monday 21st November, now is the perfect time to rethink how we go about teaching children about staying safe on the road. Shockingly, every week six children under the age of five are killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads, and rather than just accepting this statistic, we need to become proactive in addressing this issue and implement schemes which help reduce this number.
Education is a key component of improving road safety and can play a vital role in protecting children. In my experience as an HGV fleet operator, giving children the opportunity to experience, first-hand, the blind spots around such vehicles is invaluable; for us it's a case of striking the balance between nurturing their excitement about the vehicles and warning them of the dangers if not treated properly. I'm pleased to see more and more schools involved in events which make this possible and allow parents to oversee their child's learning. Something as simple as encouraging children to remove one ear phone when crossing the road can make a crucial difference.
In London, the MET and City Police organise regular Exchanging Places events for cyclists; these give them the opportunity to sit in the cab of an HGV, speak to a driver trainer and learn about the blind spots around lorries, encouraging a culture of mutual learning and understanding between the two parties. These types of events are perfect for children as well, giving them an elevated view of the road from the driver's seat - an image that will stay with them forever.
While schools are getting better at providing a broader theoretical education about road safety, I think all schools should make practical experience compulsory for all pupils, such as the cycling proficiency test. They are at the heart of our communities and, therefore, are well placed to work with local authorities to improve local roads and carry out regular cycling safety sessions.
This would help children feel completely comfortable sharing the road with drivers, a confidence that can only be achieved through experience. Schemes such as Bikeability have been launched, which train school children to be proficient on the road, offering three levels of courses starting from the brand-new riders through to those ready to take on more challenging roads and environments. Every level considers how to recognise hazards, understand blind spots and how to interact with other vehicles on road; a key area that is often forgotten about when teaching children about road safety.
Although schools might be hesitant to embrace these courses as part of their compulsory learning, perhaps due to budget constraints, the lessons learnt will stick with the children for life, regardless of whether the child cycles to school, or at all. One possible way around this issue would be for the Parent-Teacher Association to fund them. The more we can encourage schools to introduce these courses, the closer we are to achieving our aim of safer roads for all.
There is a fundamental issue around road safety that all of us - fleet operators, cycling groups and parents alike - have a joint responsibility to tackle together. The more we are proactive and work to engage children in the conversation, the safer everyone - especially the young - will be.