With youngsters lacing up their shoes this month for International Walk to School Month, health professionals from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust are urging parents and teachers to make road safety a priority.
October has been designated International Walk to School Month to encourage families to tackle inactivity among children by walking to school. In the UK, figures released last month show that the number of children walking to school has reached an all-time low. While 70 percent of children walked to school a generation ago, that figure today is just 48 percent.
Lorraine Chadwick, Service Integration Manager at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust who oversees school nurses in Central Lancashire said: “A generation ago, many schoolchildren walked to school. This is now not the case and so children are probably not as aware about road safety as they used to be. On average, six children under the age of five are killed or seriously injured on British roads every week. There will be many children who will be marking International Walk to School Month by walking to school this month. It is, therefore, crucial children are made aware of road safety, cycle safety and how to handle traffic at a young age.
“The importance of this cannot be stressed. It’s getting dark early and clocks will go back an hour later this month, making the roads more hazardous. Many children will also be out and about visiting homes as part of Halloween celebrations and so the risk factor also increases. Our school nurses are promoting some top tips about walking and cycling that encourage children to be careful when walking or cycling alone, with friends or with parents.”
The largest numbers of child injuries occur between 8am to 9am and 3pm to 7pm. During these times there are around 16 deaths or serious injuries to children under 16 every week. In 2014 alone, 187 children aged 0-4 were killed or seriously injured while on foot in the UK, while some 85 cyclists aged 8-11 were killed or seriously injured.
The Trust has some top tips to keep families safe when walking to and from school and other journeys:
- Make holding hands your number one rule for when walking together
- Teach your child the Green Cross Code – Stop Look and Listen
- Wear something reflective or brightly coloured when walking in the dark
- If you are using a buggy/push chair on a hilly street, strap your wrist to the buggy handle then if you slip and let go, the buggy won't roll away
- Ask your school or Local Authority about cycle training in your area. Your child shouldn’t cycle on roads until they have been trained
- Check your child’s bike to see if it’s roadworthy: look at brakes, tyres and lights/reflectors (when riding at dusk or at night you must have white front lights and red back lights and reflectors)
- Make sure the bike is the right size for your child
- Make sure your child wears a helmet which fits and is worn correctly, it should not be pushed too far back on the head
- Ensure your child wears some high-visibility clothing when cycling