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Child Road Safety in Rural Areas

United Kingdom
United Kingdom Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport policies
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Active mobility


Background & Policy context

Most child road accidents occur in urban areas, however, DfT is also concerned about the safety of children in rural areas. A literature review is being undertaken to draw together knowledge on the risks children face when travelling in rural areas and identify good practice in remedial measures i.e. what works, and what does not including engineering, education and enforcement measures.


This research project has the following objectives:

  • To provide a critical review of research and literature on child road safety in rural areas. It is intended that this will provide a valuable reference source in formulating future policy and research decisions;
  • To quantify the trends in child safety on rural roads and identify high-risk groups;
  • To identify policies that have or may have an impact on child road safety in rural areas and assess any evaluations undertaken;
  • To identify any gaps in existing knowledge and research.

To achieve the research objectives, the following methodology was applied:

  • A review of published literature on the rural road safety of children aged under fifteen over the past fifteen years;
  • Secondary statistical analysis of Stats 19 data (police road accident records) and exposure data from the European Child Pedestrian Exposure and Accident Survey undertaken for the DfT by MVA and the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds;
  • Consultation with local authorities to identify policy and practice on road safety applicable to children in rural areas.

A total of nine interviews were undertaken with Road Safety Officers and other relevant personnel in County or Regional authorities with a substantial rural area.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
UK Government: Department for Transport
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


This project presents the findings of a literature review, consultations with a number of local authorities and secondary analysis of data. It found that there is limited literature focusing on road safety interventions for children living in rural areas and that assessment of the issues is confounded by differing definitions of 'rural' and 'children' in statistics.


Analysis of police accident statistics indicates that there were considerably fewer accidents to children in non-built up areas compared with built up areas and that the majority of child casualties in non built-up areas were car passengers. Perhaps the latter is largely due to greater car dependency. There was little difference in the accident rate amongst children in the front and rear seats of vehicles. Pedestrian and cyclist casualties were much fewer by comparison and there was less exposure to busy roads amongst children in rural areas compared to their urban peers. Danger spots for child pedestrians and cyclists in non-built up areas are T, Y or staggered junctions, and there is an apparent tendency for children to walk along the carriageway with their backs to the traffic, which is hazardous in high-speed traffic.


Child pedal cyclists appear to be at some risk near driveways. Accidents in rural areas tend to be fewer and more scattered making remedial interventions difficult.

Policy implications

Although the literature on child safety on rural roads is sparse and indirect it does flag up a number of issues that point to potential interventions and further research requirements:

  1. Geo-demographic analyses of those involved in accidents in rural areas may give a clearer picture of the target audience for interventions. Postcode data is available on Stats 19 and ways of using this to identify target groups could be explored. A clear and consistent definition of rural using postcode data will be necessary in such analyses and valuable in developing appropriate interventions.
  2. It is likely that the lack of evidence on the safety of children in rural areas will only be resolved by in-depth research which profiles the relative risk of children as car occupants, cyclists and pedestrians in terms of their exposure to risk in the environment and the socio-economic factors which influence this risk. Further research is needed to examine driver behaviour with child passengers and child restraint use. Interventions that focus on the behaviour of the driver, especially with regard to speed and alcohol use may be particularly important.
  3. It is not known how important socio-economic factors are in the road accident risk of children in rural areas. Whilst there is widespread poverty in rural areas there is also high car ownership and lower traffic density which may mean that even children from poor families may be more protected from risk than their urban counterparts i.e. they travel less frequently as vulnerable road users. Further research is required to examine the interrelationships between these factors.
  4. There is considerable scope for the evaluation of policy and engineering, education and enforcement interventions that are in place, some at a local level including Safe Routes to School, comparing where appropriate the impact on children in urban and rural situations. This would provide clear evidence of appropriate strategies to assist future policy formulation.






Key Findings
No results directly relevant to this theme. However, please note that some findings relevant to the project's key theme (Safety and Security)



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