ROAD safety is a vital part of a child’s upbringing.

Teaching children to look in both directions and be alert to traffic is essential if they are to be kept safe. Danger from vehicles is also a big factor in whether children and young people are able to walk and cycle safely to school, to the park or to see friends. It impacts upon their ability to be healthy and socially active.

Bradford Council’s road safety team works with schools across the district, delivering road safety advice. Its year three pedestrian training scheme is particularly popular with schools, teaching young children key skills including finding a safe place to cross and crossing between parked cars and at junctions.

“Pedestrian training is a life skill which not only prepares children for crossing the road safely but also promotes awareness of traffic,” says Sue Snoddy, the Council’s team leader in road safety. “It’s important that we prepare our children for the future as road users - even more so now that primary school pupils are making more journeys to school in the car, as many parents drop them off and then travel to work

“We regard all the elements of our primary school plan as very successful with schools continuing to book all or parts of it year on year. We assess, update and evaluate the content on an on-going basis.”

Across the UK accidents involving vehicles are a major cause of death and injury among the young. Bradford saw a nine per cent increase in the number of people killed and seriously injured in 2017 compared with 2016, with the numbers rising from 178 to 192, including 35 children. However, this is a marked improvement on the 2005-2009 figure of 248.

“Whilst no one wants to see an increase, these are small numbers and variance from year to year does happen. Of more concern should be the three-year rolling average which is 187, not 179, as predicted on the trend line,” says Simon D’Vali chairman of West Yorkshire Safer Roads Working Group,

“This shows us that our rate of change is slowing, but still going down.”

The risk rises as children reach secondary school and have more independence, with young pedestrians facing significant risks.

“Eleven and 12-year-olds are particularly vulnerable as they make the transition,” says Sue. “As they start to make independent journeys, issues emerge such as failure to look properly, distractions, use of mobile phones and MP3 players, peer pressure and risk taking.”

To address this the Council commissions theatre-in-education performances which are popular with schools. The actors address the reasons why accidents can occur, and the possible consequences.

Over the past three years in Bradford, City ward has the most child casualties, with 70 in the three years 2015 to 2017, followed by Bowling and Barkerend, and Bradford Moor, with Worth Valley and Baildon the lowest.

“We update the list annually and this informs us on which schools we target more intensely,” says Sue. “The team provides a three-tier district-wide service. The first-tier targets schools in the top eight wards with the highest child casualties.”

As well as road safety sessions delivered in schools, information education and publicity programmes are also disseminated through letters and deliveries, emails, and through online resources and radio adverts.

Pupils are actively involved in role-play sessions delivered by the team. They act as traffic wardens in school gate parking campaigns, and take part in ‘off and on road’ cycling training courses. Parents are encouraged to walk their children to school rather than drive. “If parents walk it helps to address school gate parking issues and children can learn road safety skills that they don’t get if they are taken to school by car,” says Sue.

School crossing patrols, she adds, are vital. “Especially outside schools where there are busy roads that don’t have zebras or light controlled crossings.”

The importance of wearing seat belts is stressed at through school presentations, publicity and a children’s book written by the team, which is sent to all schools for reception class.

Parking outside or close to school gates remains an area of concern and is currently being addressed through a West Yorkshire Police parking initiative targeting parents.

The Council works alongside the police in campaigns such as ‘One Life Lost’ which targets young drivers. Officers deliver talks to year 12/13 students to drive home the dangers of the ‘fatal 4’ offences: drink/drugs, speeding, mobile phone use and not wearing a seatbelt.

The hard-hitting talk features photos of vehicles involved in serious road traffic collisions and details of the consequences for both drivers and victims of crashes, using case studies as examples.