Recent analysis from Sustrans Scotland discovered that children in the 20 per cent most deprived areas are more than three times as likely to be involved in a road traffic accident when travelling on foot or by bike than those in the 20 per cent least deprived areas in Scotland.
Though it is well-established that a higher number of road traffic accidents occur in the more impoverished communities, this particular data looks to children who are travelling on foot or by bicycle specifically. The study found that the risk of a child being involved in a road traffic accident increases as areas become more disadvantaged; from the least deprived areas having an average of 0.25 incidents per data zone to an average of 0.83 incidents per data zone in the most deprived areas.
Commenting on the findings, Sustrans Scotland National Director, John Lauder explained:
“This analysis shines a light on a ‘double injustice’ being done to Scotland’s poorest communities. Firstly, communities are locked out of opportunities through transport poverty. Secondly, children in those communities are at 3 times higher risk of death or injury while out walking or cycling, simply due to their postcode.
The campaign group is calling on local authorities and government to implement high-quality infrastructure and reduce speed limits to make the roads a safer place for children and young people, particularly for those in disadvantaged areas.
Peter Kelly, Director of one of Scotland’s leading anti-poverty charities The Poverty Alliance, said:
“These figures from Sustrans are very concerning. We know that living on a low income can damage young lives in a variety of ways, impacting on health, education and future employment prospects. But there is a pressing need to better understand the precise reasons why children living in some parts of Scotland are more likely to be the victims of road traffic accidents."
Sustans Scotland came up with several theories as to why children living in deprived areas are at a disproportionate risk of injury than those who are not:
- Deprived areas can be denser and busier, meaning more casualties can be expected as there is a higher number of people around.
- Disadvantaged areas are more likely to host busy and fast roads that are more dangerous.
- Owning a car is expected to be low in these communities (though the number of vehicles driving through might be high) which means more people walk or use bikes to get to school or work.
According to the latest statistics from Transport Scotland, there were 899 child casualties in 2017, representing 10 per cent of all casualties. Of these, 152 were seriously injured, and there were two deaths. The two children who were killed were pedestrians. There were 399 child pedestrian casualties recorded in total in 2017, accounting for 30 per cent of pedestrian casualties across all age groups. Additionally, there were 67 child pedal cycle casualties, including ten who were seriously injured.
Sustrans Scotland senior policy officer, Alex Quayle, concluded:
“If we want more people to choose walking and cycling, and children seeing health benefits of active travel to school, we need to make our streets safer places, especially in Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas.”