A Decade of Action for Road Safety #savekidslives

According to Brake, the road safety charity, every 20 minutes, someone is killed or seriously injured¹ on UK roads.  That includes 6 children per day being killed or seriously injured2.  Every child deserves the right to attend a place of education without fearing being mowed down by a motorist within their own community.  Globally, road traffic injuries are now the biggest killer of young people aged 5-29 years and Dr Ghebreyesus, Director General at the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes that road traffic crashes are “entirely preventable”.  Brake’s Chief Executive, Mary Williams OBE states “There is a preventable epidemic on our roads, killing our next generation and causing life-long disabilities such as paralysis, serious head injury and amputation”3. The WHO were asked in 2010 to provide a report on road safety to show the current global issues (which Unicef also call a man-made epidemic4) and to support a decade of action 2011 – 2020 given there were 1.24 million people being killed globally in 20105.  As we enter the infancy of the 2021- 20306 decade of action for road safety and now with 1.35 million people being killed globally7, it is right to consider road safety outside UK’s schools.

Current situation

In March, a Sneyd Academy Pupil (aged 7) was knocked down in Stoke on Trent8.  In July, Headteacher Claire Crowther at St Peter’s CE Primary School in Burnley stated that she fears that a pupil will be knocked down soon outside her school9.  In the same month, Stanley Road Primary School headteacher David Brownsword took matters into his own hands to prove that a School Crossing Patrol Officer (SCPO) was still required outside his school in Worcestershire and so carried out a risk assessment and his own survey10.   It appears from these news stories (and many more) that there is a growing concern up and down the country of dangerous parking and speeding drivers outside many of our schools.  A minor or fatal Road Traffic Collision (RTC) outside of a school, is very likely to cause panic, anxiety and stress by drivers, children, parents and staff alike.  It is unimageable the trauma and lasting imprint this would leave with any person, never mind for a young child to witness.  According to the Department of Transport and the Office of National Statistics in 2015, children under the age of 16 are one of the most vulnerable road users11.  Furthermore in 2020 there was a higher number of males (6317) under 16 that became road causalities than females (4140)12.  WHO say there are twice as many boys than girls dying in road traffic crashes13and according to research by Road Safety Scotland the number of causalities increases as children progress from primary to secondary school14 (pp.30).  Furthermore, Safe Kids Worldwide, say that the US economy is losing $500billion on an annual basis as a result of road traffic collisions15.  

From the information above, there are clear moral, legal and financial benefits here from managing road safety outside of schools, but what is the solution? 

Holistic Solution

Across the country in 2021, UK police appear to be increasingly taking action against drivers, however the police are only one part of an overall holistic solution.  Many of our country’s schools were not constructed with parent parking in mind and many were built when there were less vehicles on the road.  Between 2000 – 2019, it is understood that there are a further 5.7 million on the roads than there was in 200016.  Therefore, our roads and schools in 2021 are not designed with parents in mind who need to safely drop off and collect their children.  Whilst some parent parking may be down to convenience, other parents may have genuine reasons for travelling to and from school in a vehicle. 

Further to policing, another part of the holistic solution is the actual road itself. 

Road Design

In the UK we are familiar with School Safety Zones (SSZ) outside many of our schools.  However from my own research, there does not appear to be a standardised approach to SSZ and many councils, Highways Authorities (HA) and schools have varying degrees of implementation.  What does a good SSZ look like?  According to the Highways Authority17 in the county in which I live, this consists of:

  • An advisory 20 mph speed limit,
  • Flashing wigwags,
  • Road signs,
  • Yellow backing boards,
  • Road markings, text,
  • Traffic calming features,
  • Waiting restrictions,
  • Pedestrian crossings features including barriers directly outside gates,
  • Cycling measures.

So now that we know what a good SSZ looks like, what other systems exist? 

The WHO and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) both encourage the usage of Safe System principles and Brake believe this is “an amazing solution”18. The Safe System principles set out five key areas of focus:

  • Safe roads – segregating road users, traffic, considering the speed and self-explaining roads.
  • Safe speeds – appropriate speed limits, enforcement, education of road users.
  • Safe vehicles – enhanced technology and roadworthiness.
  • Safe road users – traffic reduction, education, measurements of safety, school planning.
  • Post-crash care.

Safe System principles sound very familiar to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Health and Safety Guidance (HSG) document 13619 which sets out:

  • safe site,
  • safe vehicle,
  • and safe driver.

According to Brake, the definition of what a good road design looks like is20:

  • Safe roads put people first so that everyone can make safe and healthy journeys,
  • Safe roads help prevent crashes and reduce the risk of death or serious injury if a crash does occur,
  • In places where people live, safe roads have footpathscycle pathssafe crossing places and slow traffic,
  • Safe roads between places are well maintained, with clear and consistent marking and signs. Vehicles travel at safe speeds and there are physical barriers to separate vehicles travelling in opposite directions,
  • Intelligent infrastructure connects with vehicles to enable safety,
  • Accessible charging points encourage use of electric vehicles.

What part in road design does reduced speeds play?

20mph Speed Zones and Speed Limits

According to Living Streets, a pedestrian colliding with a vehicle at 20mph has a 97% chance of survival than at 30mph where the percentage lowers to 92%21.  Transport Scotland believe that ‘20mph should be the standard speed limit in the vicinity of schools’22(pp.15).  In Northern Ireland, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon in March (via legislation) introduced new part-time speed limits on roads surrounding 90 schools23.

Is twenty plenty24?  It appears from several studies that this may not be the case and the solution to this could be in what has been set out in Safe System principles.  Rospa distinguish in their guidance there is a distinct difference between a 20mph limit (lack of traffic calming measures) and 20mph zone (self-enforcing with traffic calming measures)25.  Certainly any introduction of a 20mph speed limit as we have discussed previously, should not be reliant solely upon the police to enforce as they are only part of the holistic solution.  In fact Atkins (2018) believe that alternative approaches such as ‘community initiatives and vehicle activated signage would require low level police involvement’ (pp.65)26.

So we now know that road design plays a crucial part of the holistic solution, however what else can play its part?

Road Safety Campaigns

Due to concerns within Washington, Tyne on Wear a road safety campaign27 started last month outside of Usworth Colliery Primary School which will be replicated throughout the region going forward.  Councillor Claire Rowntree (Sunderland City Council) said “parking restrictions outside of schools exist for a reason; to keep children safe as they enter and leave school”.  The campaign will see junior road safety officers leading the way as ambassadors to influence parents and other road users including a ‘no parking and a walk to school where possible’ pledge.

The Warwickshire County Council, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner are leading the way on a road safety partnership.  They are asking road users to undertake a five-minute parking survey and the above groups say “inconsiderate, unsafe and illegal parking around schools is an ongoing concern for headteachers, parents, carers and residents and puts the safety of children, and others, at risk”28

Other councils, police and crime commissioners and Highways Authorities across the country need to be taking urgent action to stem the risks to our children with this joined up thinking.

In terms of joined up thinking, surely the media have a large influence upon drivers and members of the public?


The UK Media have a role to play in our holistic solution and during the UN Global Safety Road Week in May of this year, the UK’s first media reporting guidelines for road collisions was launched.  Professor Rachel Aldred, Director of Active Travel Academy says ‘that language matters, as it helps shape how we see and treat others’29.  The media guidelines cover ten points for publishers including accuracy, avoidance of the word accident and vehicle, consideration of relatives, caution over photography, coverage on traffic delays, consideration of language, coverage based on fact and context, perpetrators not treated as victims and the usage of experts30.

What else can be done?

School streets

Known as a ‘revolution at the school gate’ was started in Italy in the 1980’s and the first in the UK was in Scotland in 2015.  This initiative gives information and guidance to local communities in order to improve the road safety outside of a school.  According to School Streets, school run traffic adds a quarter of all cars on the roads31.  What a school street does is place a temporary restriction on motorised vehicles (parents and other road users) during school drop-off and pick-up times, whilst still allowing resident access. 

School streets also believe there are other benefits to be gained from less traffic and collisions such as better mental health, increased physical activity and air quality.  A recent study found that 81% of parents and carers supported measures at their child’s school and nitrogen dioxide dropped 23% during morning drop off32.  Additional gains certainly to be had for a community.

Gloucestershire County Council Highways are trialling two school streets from Autumn 2020 for twelve to eighteen months33.  Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETRO’s) will be used in order for feedback and comments to be obtained during the trial.

Swindon Borough Council sees thirty of their schools under the Council’s School Safe Environment Zone Scheme (SSEZ) benefitting from changes with a range of measures that may include five-minute walk zones, park ‘n’ stride, anti-idling, air quality toolkits and sign competitions for children34.

Oxfordshire County Council along with cycling charity Sustrans have launched a scheme in March of this year whereby Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment believes school streets “enable a traffic revolution” and Sarah Leeming Sustrans head of delivery believes that “children can get to school feeling alert and ready for a day of learning”35.

What does health and safety law cover about road safety outside of schools?

The law

What then can school leaders do to protect all users including themselves?  Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HASAWA) applies to others not in an employer’s employment.  Therefore, whilst it is unreasonable for a school to be prosecuted or to experience a civil claim for a RTC that happens on a road out with the school boundary, it may happen.  If there was deemed to be obvious failings by school leaders, then the regulator (the HSE) may take action.  The HSE are very clear in their guidance that schools need to consider roads directly outside of their premises36.

Schools leader’s responsibility

As noted earlier, it is unreasonable for a school to be held to account for a RTC directly outside of their premises, however what School leaders must do to ensure the welfare of all is:

  • A thorough risk assessment for vehicle movements on and around their school (to include the direct surrounding road(s) to the school). School leaders can make usage of resources such as Rospa37 and Public Health England38 to help with this;
  • Obtain your councils SSZ guidance (if this document exists);
  • Get in touch with your council to determine if you have a School Travel Officer, Safety Travel officer or a Road Safety Officer and if you do, get them involved;
  • Work with various user groups mentioned in this article to campaign for enhanced road safety measures (including the usage of safe systems);
  • If not already, promote road safety as part of the curriculum (using free resources from think!39, Brake40, Gloucestershire County Council41) and work with other user groups to raise the awareness of road safety including the usage of junior road safety officers/mini coppers42.
  • Be part of the 2021 road safety hero road safety week 15 – 21 November43.


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Author: Scott Crichton