Published: 21st MAY 2019

Children’s road safety 'postcode lottery' in Scotland

ߣߣƵ research reveals children on foot or bike are more than three times as likely to be involved in a collision with a vehicle in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland than in the 20% least deprived areas.

Children in school uniform walking and cycling

We need more widespread high-quality infrastructure and lower speeds in streets to make children and young people safer, especially in deprived areas

What we have been studying

Though it is well-established that there are more, we have been researching specifically children travelling actively on foot or by bike.

ߣߣƵ Scotland comparedfor slight and serious injuries with the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation to work out the risk to children in different areas. This produced the average risk of being involved in an incident across Scotland depending on the level of deprivation.

What we found

The risk for a child on foot or bike of being involved in a road traffic accident increases as areas become more deprived. From an average of 0.25 incidents per data zone in the least deprived areas, to an average of 0.83 incidents per data zone in the most deprived areas.

Children on foot and bikes are at a disproportionate risk of injury in deprived areas.

Why is this?

We do not know and this research isn’t designed to tell us. The truth is that everywhere will be different and there are lots of interwoven factors that lead to this social injustice.

However, our work delivering walking and cycling infrastructure and working with communities leads us to a few theories:

  • Deprived areas are often denser and busier, so you might expect more casualties as there are more people around.
  • Deprived areas are more likely to host busy and fast roads that are more dangerous.
  • Car ownership is likely to be low in these areas (though the number of cars driving through might be high) which means that more people are out on foot or a bike on the way to school or work.
  • There may be a lack of investment in infrastructure and local peoplemay not have the time or resources to complain or organise a response.
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This analysis shines a light on a ‘double injustice’ being done to Scotland’s poorest communities. Firstly, communities are locked out of opportunities through transport poverty. Secondly, children in those communities are at three times higher risk of death or injury while out walking or cycling, simply due to their postcode. Blockquote quotation marks

What do we want to happen?

Though we are not sure why this is happening, we do know what we can do to reduce this inequality and deliver safer streets. The most effective preventative measures are safe infrastructure and slower speed limits.

  • Infrastructure:Evidence showsrequires appropriate crossings, wide pavements. And for cycling,offers the biggest improvement.
  • Lower speed limits: Protecting children from cars means that we need to slow down cars.reduce both the number and severity of collisions. The implementation of 20mph has been particularly, where it halved casualties in the most deprived areas of London.
  • More research: There is a need for more research to better understand the causes of this inequality.

If we want more people to choose walking and cycling, and more children seeing the health benefits of active travel to school, we need to start by making our streets safer places - especially in Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas.

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