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Your car can be a killer


6:56am 20th July 2011

Drivers urged to slow down amid fears for kids' safety in residential streets during school holidays.

Brake, the road safety charity, and Churchill Car Insurance are calling on drivers to slow down for kids this summer to prevent holiday tragedies. Drivers are being urged to drive at 20mph or below in built up areas, as research out today by Brake and Churchill shows that more than four in five people (83%) worry about the safety of children on streets around their homes because of fast traffic.

As the summer holidays start, more children are out and about playing with friends. Whether they are on foot or on bikes they are enjoying the freedom and fresh air that is an important part of childhood. But many parents face tough decisions, having to weigh up these benefits against fears for their children's safety, and the very real threat of traffic that is too fast for safety in many communities.

The research by Brake and Churchill also found that:
" 91% would like drivers to drive more slowly and carefully in their neighbourhood for the sake of vulnerable road users, such as children;
" 74% think more should be done to slow down traffic around schools and community facilities;
" 30% think children on foot in the UK are at greater risk than in most other European counties;
" 70% consciously fear for their own safety when on foot due to the threat of being knocked down .

Julie Townsend, campaigns director of Brake, said:

"We all want to live in safe communities where everyone is able to get out and about. Unfortunately many children can't do this without having to negotiate streets plagued by fast traffic that poses a serious risk to their safety.

"It's time that all drivers took responsibility and slowed down to 20mph or below when driving in communities, so everyone, especially children, get enjoy their local neighbourhood safely.

"We're also calling on local authorities to follow the lead of places like Portsmouth and put in place more widespread 20mph limits, which are a cost effective way to help make our communities safer, healthier, more family-friendly places."

Tony Chilcott , head of Churchill Car Insurance, said:

"Whilst  parents can teach children how to cross the road safely and warn them of the dangers when out playing, the lives of their loved ones are very much in the hands of drivers and whether or not they are willing to slow down. 

"Speed limits are a maximum and not a 'must do'. Gauging the conditions and situation is not just the responsibility of pedestrians, drivers need to drive as they'd expect others to, if their child was playing near by."

Fears for children's safety on roads are not unfounded.

In England and Wales, traffic accounts for more than half of non-medical deaths among children aged 5-14. More children are killed by traffic than all other so-called 'accidental' causes such as falls, drowning, fire, poisoning, assault and murder put together .

In 2009, 4,383 children were killed or seriously injured on UK roads. The majority of these children (58%) were on foot or bicycle at the time . 

Despite being international leaders in road safety, with the second lowest road death rate in the EU, we lag behind many other countries when it comes to protecting children.

In the UK, our child pedestrian death rate per population is worse than 10 other EU countries, and eight times higher than Sweden's.

In recent years, parents have increasingly stopped children using local streets without supervision , preventing children from getting exercise, learning important social skills and enjoying their childhood.

Both these issues can be addressed by action from individual drivers as well as policies to help more children and adults walk and cycle safely in their local area. Brake and Churchill are appealing to drivers to slow down to 20mph or below in built up areas and look out for children this summer.

They are also calling on the Government to tackle the unacceptable levels of child casualties on UK roads (see calls for action below) and for more local authorities to implement life-saving town and city wide 20mph limits.

Click here to read more about Brake's 'Kids say slow down' campaign

Churchill Insurance also supports Brake's Beep! Beep! Day campaign, which aims to stop shocking deaths on roads of very young children by teaching toddlers and their parents vital road safety lessons.

Anyone who has been bereaved or seriously injured in a crash can call the Brake helpline for support on 0845 603 8570.

Calls to Government
- Reduce the urban default limit from 30mph to 20mph
- Enable communities to have traffic-free zones and more pedestrian-friendly engineering
- Ensure speed limits are effectively enforced and appropriate penalties given to speeding drivers
- Step up publicity and education, aiming to make speeding socially unacceptable

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