Road safety is one of the most important lessons

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Now school has started, parents need to be sure both they and their children have learned all about road safety.

Figures from the charity Brake reveal that five children under 16 are killed or seriously injured when walking or cycling every day in the UK, many of them while going to or from school.

In a bid to reduce this number, the UK’s first Local Road Safety Index has been launched to help parents, teachers, local authorities and drivers better understand the risks associated with roads near schools.

‘Traffic is the biggest threat that parents have to deal with to keep their kids safe,’ says Ellen Booth, Brake’s senior campaigns officer, pointing out that road accidents are the largest non-medical killer of primary-age children.

Booth thinks the index, which has been produced by AXA Car Insurance and road safety research provider Road Safety Analysis, will be particularly useful for schools and local authorities trying to minimise risks on roads near schools.

‘It’s full of data and the people responsible for creating road safety solutions may be able to use it to devise initiatives. I’d encourage parents to have a look at it too, so they’re aware of the risks near their school.’

Brake is also running its own campaign, Go 20, to get speed limits around schools and built-up areas reduced to 20mph, and encourage drivers to travel at that speed, or less, when driving near schools - regardless of the speed limit.

‘Reducing vehicle speeds can make a massive difference to the safety of kids on foot and riding bikes,’ explains Booth.

‘At 20mph, drivers have much more time to react, and to help them stop in time if they need to.’

The road safety charity has released a survey of 1000 drivers which found 64 per cent think traffic is too fast on local roads for the safety of children on foot and bikes, and 65 per cent want action to make walking and cycling safer around schools and built-up areas.

Yet 63 per cent still admit to driving at 35mph or faster in 30mph zones, the most popular excuse being that they feel pressure from other drivers to go faster.

‘It’s a regular thing that drivers – whether or not they’re parents – recognise the benefits of lower speeds,’ says Booth.

‘There’s a real mismatch between their attitude and their behaviour behind the wheel.’

Of course, it’s not just changing driving behaviour that will make roads safer – children need to be well-educated about safety too.

Booth recommends parents regularly talk to their kids to make sure they know how to follow the Green Cross Code.

As for walking to school unsupervised, she says many parents allow this from the age of eight, but adds it’s a very personal decision.