Stop, look and listen! It’s Child Safety Week

Today sees the start of Child Safety Week, the Child Accident Prevention Trust’s annual campaign to raise awareness of the accidents that injure or kill children and what can be done to prevent them. This year, the focus is on Small Steps to Safety, encouraging small actions which help keep children safe to become part of every day routines.

Teaching children about staying safe as pedestrians on and by the road is one aspect of child safety education. A Cochrane review on education prorgammes designed to prevent collisions between pedestrians and motor vehicles brought together fifteen randomised controlled trials. In all but one the participants were children and all took place in developed countries. Here’s what they found:

  • Overall, safety education of pedestrians improved attitude and intentions and also knowledge about road safety
  •  Education may need to be repeated at regular intervals, as the effect can decline with time

But:

  • The effect of safety education of pedestrians on behaviour varied considerably and it is uncertain what effect behavioural change might have on pedestrian injury risk
  • The effect of safety education on children’s knowledge also varied across studies
  • None of the trials assessed the impact of education on the occurence of injury
  • The quality of the included studies was poor
  • The most recent study included in the review was conducted in 1997 and the review is in need of updating

The authors concluded:

“Pedestrian safety education can result in improvement in children’s knowledge and can change observed road crossing behaviour, but whether this reduces the risk of pedestrian motor vehicle collision and injury occurrence is unknown. There is evidence that changes in safety knowledge and observed behaviour decline with time, suggesting that safety education must be repeated at regular intervals.”

They also suggested that “whilst the value of pedestrian safety education remains in doubt, environmental modification and the enforcement of appropriate speed limits may be a more effective strategy to protect children from the hostile traffic environment”. Clearly we need to know more.

But it’s not just about the roads

Speaking about Child Safety Week, Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive at the Child Accident Prevention Trust, said:

“We are asking families to take just a few small steps to make a safer environment for children and young people. Simple things like making sure hot drinks are safely out of reach of small hands, practising with children how to cross the road safely, or fitting and checking smoke alarms can all be significant steps to ensuring children’s safety.”

Free downloadable resources on safety, to help support professionals working with local families, are now available online on the Child Safety Week website (www.childsafetyweek.org.uk). The Department of Education has a section on pedestrian safety and how parents can help on its website.

I leave you with a reminder of how we approached road safety education in the 20th century, with a warning to my weasel friends that some scenes may be of a distressing nature.

Links:

Duperrex O, Roberts I, Bunn F. Safety education of pedestrians for injury prevention. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001531. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001531.

Cochrane summary of this review

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Sarah Chapman

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My name is Sarah Chapman. I have worked on systematic reviews and other types of research in many areas of health for the past 17 years, for the Cochrane Collaboration and for several UK higher education institutions including the University of Oxford and the Royal College of Nursing Institute. I also have a background in nursing and in the study of the History of Medicine.

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