Look out for kids as schools head back, urges road safety charity

Brake, the road safety charity is urging drivers to look out for children and take extra care on the roads as New Zealand moves into alert Level 2 and schools and childcare centres start to return.

Roads are already busier, and with schools and kindergartens back from Monday, the streets around them are likely to be busy with children at the start and end of the day. Drivers are being reminded to slow down around schools and centres, and to keep a particular look out for children on foot, bike and scooter.

Brake says it's essential that drivers slow down around schools, childcare centres and in communities. Slower speeds don't make a big difference to travel times for drivers, but significantly reduce the risk of death and serious injury in a crash. It's particularly important around children, who often make mistakes when using roads. At lower speeds, drivers have a much better chance of stopping in time if a child makes a mistake, and if a crash occurs, their chance of survival is much higher. Research has found that children cannot judge the speed of approaching vehicles travelling faster than 30km/h, so may believe it is safe to cross the road when it is not. [1]

A lot of families have been out and about exploring and enjoying their neighbourhoods on foot and bicycle during lockdown. Brake hopes that people will continue to walk and cycle more often, including more children using active modes to get to school, but says more pedestrians and cyclists means it's more important than ever for drivers to stay focused on the road when they're at the wheel and to keep a look out for people on foot and bike, particularly as we head into the darker winter months

Caroline Perry, Brake's NZ director said: "With the move to alert Level 2 our roads are getting busier, and with schools starting to resume it's vital that drivers slow down and look out for kids. Children can make mistakes, and research shows they can't accurately assess a vehicle's speed, so drivers need to give the road their full attention. Many schools have lower speed limits around them but we urge drivers to commit to slowing down even further, to 30km/h, so they are much more likely to stop in time if a child runs out, and if they do hit, the child is far more likely to survive."

The charity is also reminding drivers that the speed limit when passing a stopped school bus in either direction is 20km/h.

"The speed limit around school buses is there to protect children. They sometimes make mistakes, but don't deserve to pay for it with their life. We're reminding all drivers of the importance of the school bus rule and calling on them to always follow it," Ms Perry said.

Parents can also help protect their children by teaching key road safety messages such as: holding hands with young children; safety when crossing the road and using stop, look and listen; crossing only at designated crossing points, or if there aren't any, crossing at safe places, not on bends or between parked cars; taking headphones off and not using a phone when crossing.

[1] Traffic at 30mph is too fast for children's visual capabilities, University of Royal Holloway London, 2010

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