Vias: ‘40% of accidents happen on the way to or from school’
Every day, fourteen children get injured on their way to or from school. Most accidents happen on their way home. And usually only a few kilometers from school. “There is an urgent need for safer bicycle routes,” says Stef Willems, spokesperson of the Vias traffic safety institute.
“Most children and youngsters that are getting injured in a traffic accident are on their way to or from school,” explains Willems. The total number of injured people has been going down in the last few years, but this trend is following the general decrease in casualties and injured people in traffic accidents between 2015 and 2019. “The proportions, however, remain identical,” Willems says. “40% of accidents happen in school traffic.”
Most accidents, however, don’t happen at the school gate but further from school, confirms Wies Callens of the Bicycle Union (Fietsersbond). “That is why we’re cool lovers of subsidies to make school environments safer: it only moves the problem.” A better solution would be to make bicycle routes to schools safer.
Figures of accidents in which 12-years-olds are involved are peaking. “That’s the typical age when children start to go to school independently,” explains Willems. “They start to go to high school, which is often further from home,” Callens adds.
At the age of 16, there is a second significant increase in statistics. “At that age, youngsters are beginning to use other means of transport, the motorbike, for instance. They also display more risky behavior, especially boys.
The more day and week have progressed, the more danger is involved. Willems: “Most accidents happen on Thursday and Friday evening: about 40% more than on Monday morning. Tiredness and euphoria at the end of the school week play an important part, in children but also in other road users.”
The question is what this school year will bring? Fewer pupils will opt for public transport due to the corona crisis. So, what will be the alternative? “The last few months, people in Flanders have been cycling massively,” Wies Callens says. “We hope they will continue to do so.”
“More people are working from home these days. So, let’s hope they will use the bike to bring their children to school and not the car. It will be better for their children and themselves.”