Media Release 2 May 2007 – Road Safety Plan Ignores School Students

Save Our Schools has criticised the ACT Government’s new Road Safety Action Plan for wilfully ignoring the impact of school closures on the safety of children walking and cycling longer distances to and from school.

SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, called on the Government to support national Walk Safely to School Day this Friday by improving traffic safety arrangements for children affected by school closures.

“Walk Safely to School Day is designed to support road safety and health for primary school children. However, many children in Canberra cannot walk to school safely now as a result of school closures and the failure of the ACT Government to improve traffic safety infrastructure in the affected areas.

“The Government’s new Road Safety Action Plan does not even mention the safety of children walking to school despite the fact that an additional 1,000 children may now have to cross major arterial roads and other busy roads to access another school.

“These children face greatly increased safety risks. A study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre has shown that the risk of accident for child pedestrians and cyclists on arterial roads is more than three times higher than on local streets.

“There are potential ‘black spots’ where children will be at major risk of traffic accidents around Isabella Plains, Narrabundah and Weston where schools are fully or partially closed. Other suburbs where children travelling to and from school will face significantly increased traffic safety risks include Chifley, Cook, Flynn, Rivett and Scullin/Page.”

“Many accidents involve young pedestrians and cyclists. Nearly 50 per cent of pedestrian accidents in Canberra involve people aged under 20. Most bicycling road accidents also involve people under 20. An Austroads report shows that primary school students account for 75 per cent of national school transport-related pedestrian fatalities.”

Mr. Cobbold said that child and traffic safety organizations warn of increased dangers for young children crossing busy roads.

“The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia says that children under 10 years old are not able to judge speed and distance or gaps in traffic. The Australian College of Road Safety says that the ability of young children to cope with traffic is extremely limited until the age of about 12 years. It also says that children will generally try and minimise walking distances by taking short cuts.

“These warnings are based on substantial research. For example, a recent Macquarie University study shows that children under 10 years of age cannot reliably make judgments regarding safe behaviour in traffic situations. It also found that many parents wrongly believe that their children were competent road users by the age of 6 or 7.

“Another study by the Accident Research Centre found that nearly 60 per cent of children aged between 7 and 10 years involved in a simulated pedestrian study ‘crossed the road’ at the wrong moment and that the decision could have been fatal in real life.”

Mr. Cobbold called on the ACT Government to do an audit of pedestrian and cycling safety in the regions affected by school closures and to publish the results.

“The Minister for the Territory and Municipal Services, John Hargreaves, has admitted that no assessment has been done on what additional measures are needed to ensure student safety in areas where schools have or will close. This is a gross negligence.

“Save Our Schools also calls on the ACT Government to take up the recommendation of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation that a traffic management and safety plan should be prepared for each school.”

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