Talk Safe, Text Safe, Stay Safe

Almost one third of adolescents sometimes or often cross a road using a mobile phone and forget to look properly* according to the RAC Foundation and children’s charity 4Children. Last year 3,232 teens aged 11-16 were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads.

The Foundation and 4Children are concerned that the massive increase in mobile phone use amongst teens is adding to road safety dangers.

Children are the fastest growing group of mobile phone users, with most parents purchasing mobiles for their children due to issues around children’s safety. Ironically the mobiles may be making children more vulnerable particularly when crossing the road.

Figures show that amongst 11-16 year olds:

  • 90% of over 10’s now have a mobile.
  • 5% very often cross the road using a mobile and not looking properly.
  • 7% fairly often cross the road using a mobile and not looking properly.
  • 18% sometimes cross the road using a mobile and not looking properly.
  • 41% have been involved in a "near miss" as a pedestrian.
  • Almost one in ten teenagers who have been involved in accidents say that they were not looking or paying attention.

The most recent casualty figures show an 8% fall in number of people killed in road accidents from 2003 to 2004. The figures also show that 34,351 people were killed or seriously injured on our roads in 2004, 8% fewer than in 2003.

The statistics show:

  • 8% reduction in fatalities from 3,508 in 2003 to 3,221 in 2004.
  • Child casualties fell by 3%.
  • The number of children (0-16) killed or seriously injured in 2004 was 3905 (down 5% on 2003).
  • According to DFT traffic is the biggest single cause of accidental death for 12-16 year olds.
  • 50% of 5-10 year olds walk to school.
  • 44% 11-16 year olds walk to school.

Whilst reductions in casualties are very encouraging, the RAC Foundation points out that we still have a long way to go with our road safety record. There are still 94 people a day killed or seriously injured on the roads in Great Britain, 11% of whom are children. The Foundation and 4Children are concerned that the increased use of mobile phones, texting and iPods whilst out and about, puts teenagers more at risk while crossing the road.

Research suggests that teens often see road safety as juvenile and they feel invulnerable. Many teens will give cursory glances left and right whilst crossing the road but will not pay full attention. Using a mobile phone, listening to a personal stereo or talking to friends can reduce the level of attention.

The RAC Foundation and 4Children have raised these concerns with the Department for Transport and are delighted that these issues will be addressed in a major new commercial, targeting teenage pedestrians, which will go to air for the first time on 20 August during the X Factor on ITV and will run until 11 September in teen programming.

The RAC Foundation has produced a list of key improvements to Road Safety we would like to see implemented to ensure that the current trend of reductions in casualties on our roads continue:

  • Insufficient importance is given to the education of pedestrians and road users, especially during their formative years. The introduction of a ‘road safety’ module into the national curriculum could improve road safety.
  • Motoring penalties should be supplemented with courses to re-educate drivers such as nationwide speed awareness courses.
  • Re-training should be offered as an alternative to, or part of criminal proceedings or sentence, depending on the nature or circumstances of the offence.
  • A review of speed limits should be undertaken to ensure that they are appropriate for the type of road along with more flexible speed limits relating to time of day or conditions. Wider use of flashing lights outside schools during peak periods would help drivers to be aware of the dangers.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation said:

" We are delighted that the Government’s Think! Campaign is to target inattention amongst teens. We have been concerned for some time that the increased use of mobile phones and personal stereos amongst teen pedestrians was adding to road safety hazards. Listening to Busted and phone videoing your friends whilst crossing the road is not conducive to road safety.

"Drivers should also be aware of extra dangers when children are round and slow down and expect the unexpected. Children often run across the road to join friends without checking for traffic".

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children said;

"4Children is dedicated to the care and development of all children, parents and families. We have been working with the RAC Foundation for sometime to find ways of getting crucial road safety messages across to children. We are delighted that some of these messages are to be highlighted in new Think! Commercials".

*"Adolescent road user behaviour: A survey of 11-16 year olds", TRL report 561 prepared for Road Safety Division, DFT.

20 August 2005 Staff

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