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A tragic start to 2017 for children’s road safety

A four year old boy critically injured and a second killed highlights WA’s appalling road safety record, as few people realise that road trauma continues to be the number one cause of death and the second highest cause of serious injury for children in WA.

Although road deaths for children in Australia have remained relatively steady or even decreased slightly over the last five years, the story is quite different here in WA, where the numbers are unfortunately continuing to rise. Only about 11% of all Australia’s children live in WA, but in 2016 over 18% of all children’s road deaths Australia-wide occurred in this state, with an average of 16% having occurred over the last five years. This is a disproportionate number of fatalities for the population we have, so what’s going wrong?

Unfortunately, the reality is that the number of WA children dying on our roads has climbed steadily year on year since 2011 and this trend shows no sign of abating, with 74 children killed on WA roads and thousands seriously injured in the last five years alone. While many of these tragic and avoidable deaths are children who are killed while passengers in cars, a number are also child pedestrians or cyclists. Over the last four years WA has averaged 25% of all Australia’s child pedestrian and cyclist deaths. This is a terrible indictment on our safety record amongst our most vulnerable road users.

We need a whole of community approach if we are going to reverse this worrying trend, an approach that focuses on education and prevention rather than just on driver compliance. This means not leaving it all to police and the state government to catch people who speed, who don’t give way to cyclists and pedestrians, or who don’t secure their kids properly when they’re passengers in the car. This is a purely retroactive approach that only catches people after they’ve done something wrong and by itself will never lead to reduced harm.

What’s needed as well is a proactive strategy that means that the community, especially parents and teachers, take responsibility to educate kids about the dangers of being in a shared-use outdoor environment - an environment where they encounter not only cars, trucks and motorcycles, but bikes, scooters, skateboarders, other pedestrians looking at their phones and lots of other potential hazards. It’s never too early to start talking to children about road safety and to model good road safety behaviours for them to follow. 

Children learn through direct education, but also through play and experience, so to address this CCCSF is building WA’s first Safety School, where kids can experience what it’s like to be out on Perth’s footpaths and roads, without any of the actual risks that would entail. This state-of-the-art experiential learning centre in Maylands will allow primary school groups to learn and practice bicycle, pedestrian and public transport safety skills in a realistic, working road layout that incorporates the latest in augmented reality learning and that links back to the classroom road safety curriculum. We’ll also be running school holiday programs to allow parents and children to take advantage of this purpose-built education facility outside school hours as well. For more information on the Constable Care Safety School which opens in July this year, visit www.cccsf.org.au/safety-school

By David Gribble, Chief Executive Officer, Constable Care Child Safety Foundation

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