Every day in the European Union, more than eighteen children are seriously injured and one is killed in road traffic collisions. More than 6 000 children up to the age of 14 have died in traffic in the European Union over the last ten years. The impact of these deaths and life-changing injuries on families and communities is immeasurable.
That is what the latest European Transport Safety Council report ‘Reducing child deaths on European roads’ revealed. The ETSC, therefore, calls for renewed action and specific targets to protect children in traffic.
Safer school surroundings
Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC: “Making cities safe for children starts with simple things such as lower speeds and school streets. But if we are serious about reducing the hundreds of deaths of children that tragically occur every year, we also need to redesign our urban spaces to keep children separate from fast-moving vehicles and give them space to play and move around.”
The ETSC pleads for safer walking and cycling routes to schools. The organization says roads around child care facilities and in urban areas with lots of cyclists and pedestrians should be (re)designed for 30 km/hour and low volume traffic. ETSC calls on the EU to make this a formal recommendation.
Despite major advances in car safety in recent years, almost half of child road deaths on European roads are of young children (0 to 13 years old) traveling in cars. Studies have shown that incorrect usage of child seats in the car remains a significant problem.
According to ETSC, rear-facing seats are safer and should be made mandatory for as long as is practicable, preferably until the child is four years old. From 1 September 2024, only child seats meeting a new UN ‘R129’ standard can be sold on the EU market.
Vulnerable road users
Children are particularly vulnerable road users, and as soon as children actively participate in traffic, the risks increase. One-third of children between 0 and 13 killed on European roads are pedestrians; 11% are cyclists. One in every 15 child deaths is the result of a road collision.
Above the age of 14, one-fifth (20%) of child road deaths are moped riders; nine out of ten child motorcycle riders are boys. ETSC also warns that 16 European countries allow children to ride a moped at 14 or 15 years old, despite a recommended EU minimum age of 16.
Road mortality rate
The authors of the study also noticed a significant difference in the safety of children across the European Union. For instance, Romania’s child road mortality rate is ten times higher than in Norway, Cyprus, and Sweden. Where child road mortality is relatively low, road mortality for the rest of the population also tends to be relatively low and vice versa.
Improving road safety for children can be achieved through a combined set of measures to address the behavior of all road users: improved infrastructure, upgrading the road environment, vehicle safety, and helmet use.
Prevention and protection
Other measures are designing vehicles that better protect both their occupants and those outside the vehicle, enforcing traffic laws, promoting the correct use of appropriate child restraint systems, improving road traffic education and awareness raising. Also, new technologies like intelligent speed assistance systems or automated emergency braking can contribute to road safety for children.