Traffic crashes the leading cause of child deaths

Traffic collisions are the leading cause of child mortality in Ireland — with more than a third of all child deaths occurring on the roads.

Traffic crashes the leading cause of child deaths

The statistic was revealed at the Road Safety Authority (RSA) annual international road safety conference at Dublin Castle.

The group pointed out the child safety theme was particularly relevant as it’s mid-term break for schools and given that the number of children killed on our roads almost tripled last year.

Fourteen children under the age of 15 lost their lives in road accidents last year. Seven were passengers, seven were pedestrians.

While child fatalities have decreased by 89% and serious injuries by 75%, from 1997 to 2012, a total of 262 children were killed and 1,115 seriously injured in that period.

The conference heard that the greatest danger a child faces each day is when using the road — travelling as passengers in a car, walking, or cycling.

Just under half of all children who die do so while walking and almost two out of five children killed are passengers. Garda reports into collisions indicate that one in 10 children were not wearing a seatbelt or using a child restraint.

Writing in this newspaper, the chief executive of the RSA, Moyagh Murdock, said the difference between a collision at 30km per hour and 50km per hour “can be the difference between life and death” and called on local authorities to introduce more 30km/h zones.

“I have publicly called on all local authorities to introduce more 30km/h zones in their areas. They have had the powers to do so since we switched to the metric system in January 2005, over a decade ago and the implementation rate has been abysmally poor, especially where children are playing and living, and I renew that call again now,” she said.

Ms Murdock said Ireland “lags behind the UK and the rest of Europe” in introducing such speed limits.

Roseann Brennan, whose six-year-old son, Jake, died after being knocked down by a car near his home in Lintown Grove in Kilkenny, last June, has been campaigning for a mandatory 20km/h speed limit.

Speaking at the conference, chair Liz O’Donnell said the figures in relation to child deaths were shocking and that collective action was needed.

“We shockingly saw almost triple the number of child deaths on our roads last year. We can either watch this trend continue, or collectively take action; to make sure no more children’s lives are lost this year or any year. A seemingly daunting task, but certainly possible when we work together.”

Ms O’Donnell said parents must treat their children “like precious cargo” when carrying them in cars and ensure they are properly restrained.

The conference heard that children are our most vulnerable road users, but they cannot be responsible for their own safety when using the road. They simply do not have the cognitive skills to be able to recognise danger. That’s why it’s up to us as adults to do the right thing and protect them

The conference also heard from Margaret Ryan, of Trinity College School of Psychology, who discussed how children’s development and age determines their ability to negotiate traffic; Dr Divera AM Twisk, of the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands, who presented on risk-taking among young adolescent cyclists, and research manager with the RSA Velma Burns, who presented on key influencers in a child’s decision-making when it comes to crossing the road safely.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the conference findings “will inform policy and decision making at Government level”.

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