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Traffic safety of children

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STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
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Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues,
Transport sectors
Active mobility


Background & Policy context

This study aims to safety of children in relation to traffic.


This study analysis traffic safety/danger of children. It presents recommendations for improvements and/or issues which need to be further studied.

The children are divided into three age groups: 0-5, 6-11 and 12-14 years. This age classification follows roughly speaking the three most important phases in the life of children concerning traffic participation: the first six years in which traffic participation is mainly not individual, then the period of the primary education in which individual traffic participation is learned and is practised, and the period of the continued education, in which children take part individual in the traffic participation. The limit of up to 15 years has been introduced because then traffic unsafety of children strongly increases, not in the last least because children then start with using mopeds and scooters.  


This study into the road safety of children uses different types of data.

  • In the first place crash data is used of the size, nature, and development of children's safety in the period 1984-2005; here a distinction is made between fatalities and in-patients. Specific attention is paid to the crash characteristics for the period 2001-2005. 
  • Secondly, mobility and population data is used to explain the found differences in safety. 
  • The third source, a literature study, yields the characteristics of the child's different development phases that are relevant for their traffic behaviour. A survey of existing and intended measures for the improvement of children's safety in traffic is based on this literature.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Research agency
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


The most important conclusion of this study is that the number of fatalities and in-patients among children aged 0-14, has decreased considerably during the past decades, certainly compared with the decrease among other age groups. In 2005, the number of fatalities among 0-14 year-olds was approximately 30 as opposed to 120 fatalities in the late 1980s.

There were few changes in their exposure to traffic and in the number of children in the age group 0-14. Therefore, the favourable development of the number of traffic casualties among 0-14 year-olds cannot be attributed to these factors. It is unknown if children spent less time playing outdoors.

The large decrease in the number of casualties is remarkable, considering the development phase children are in and their lack of experience. These two factors explain why they are not able to cope with traffic's dynamics which has increased considerably over the past years.

It is unknown precisely which factors contributed to the decrease of the number of casualties among children. It probably is a combination of measures in the areas of spatial planning, urban planning, infrastructure, vehicles, security systems, and education. Especially important are the construction of safer residential areas, the Sustainable Safety programme which has now been carried out for more than a decade and has for instance resulted in the realization of zones 30, the safety improvements of passenger vehicles, an increased use of child's seats and seatbelts, public information, and educational programmes.

It is unclear whether accompanying children on their way to and from school has contributed to this favourable development, as no information is available about a possible increase or decrease. Moreover, nothing is known about the safety effects. It is known, however, that learning to behave safely in traffic is very time-consuming. Even a relatively simple task like cycling in fact requires almost daily practice. Therefore it is essential to motivate parents and guardians to actively educate children about traffic during their daily trips. This can for example be done by cycling or walking to school together along the safest route. This practical experience cannot be acquired through education in school.

The three most important modes of transport for children are walking, cycling and as a car passenger. Cyclists are the major group among both fatalities and in-patients. The number of in-patients is not increasing for children, as it is for adults, but

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