Inter Law – Road accident claims for children are decreasing in the UK

Accidents are generally the major cause of death for children and young people in the UK and thousands of serious injuries are caused each year. Fatal accidents range from knocks in the home to playground falls, but it is road traffic accidents which are most frightening to parents and it is these which are currently on the decrease. Because the roads are safer for young children fewer accident claims are being made on their behalf.

The office for national statistics’ records show that back in 1992 180 child pedestrians had been killed in serious road accidents, but by 2002 an almost perfect year on year trend saw that figure lowered dramatically. The frightening statistic dropped over the course of ten years to just 79 deaths. A similar pattern shows up in statistics for children who were seriously injured, with 4,901 recorded in 1992 which fell to only 2,828 by the end of the ten year period.

The British Isles have a remarkable record for road safety compared with the majority of other European countries. In 2004 the UK had one of the lowest road death rates in Europe, at 5.6 per 100,000 people in the population. The UK statistics were also lower than the statistics for other industrialised nations such as Japan for which rates were 6.96 per 100,000 people and statistics for Great Britain were also substantially lower than those of Australia and the United States.

The successful ‘Stop, Look, Listen, Live’ campaign which features cute, singing hedgehogs is a hit with small children and teaches them important road safety skills. Schemes like this, including those for young people are having a positive effect on the number of deaths and injuries caused in road accidents and lowering the number of accident claims which distraught parents make as a result. The Devon and Cornwall Constabulary say on their website that: “Children from low income families and ethnic minorities are at greater risk [from road accidents]. Exactly why is not understood.” And also that: “The risk of being involved in a road accident when walking or playing is more than 10 times greater for a child with hearing difficulties.”

The police force also highlight the number of children who are aged 0 – 5, who’s deaths are due to poor supervision,  being loose in a car or strapped into badly fitting child restraints. They suggest that the greatest risk for children of this age range is within the and state that 185 children under 5 years old have died or were seriously injured in 2001 while they were sat in the passenger seat.  Children who are sitting in the right seat for the child’s size which are fitted properly usually only suffer minor injuries in a car crash but unfortunately it is reported that approximately half of all child seats are not properly fitted.

In Swansea, Wales, road safety education and traffic calming measures have helped to reduce the annual number of road casualties which involve children by more than 60 each year. Jeff Green, who is the road safety officer for Swansea council said in a press release last year: “We’re delighted to see these statistics reducing each year. The Council’s road safety team is working hard developing new ways to educate children about the dangers on our roads and how they can avoid these dangers. New schemes such as the Children’s Traffic Club enable us to target children as young as three to get the road safety message across. It’s vital that parents also help us to educate children about road safety.”

The good news that fewer accident claims are being made on behalf of children does not mean that drivers can now become complacent. Clearly there is still work to be done and we must work together to make the roads safer still, for everyone everywhere.

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