Some drivers need a lesson in road safety as kids go back to school

2nd September 2013

Brake and Direct Line are calling for drivers to help make streets safer for kids to walk and cycle, by committing to slow down to 20mph around homes, shops and schools. Their research out today reveals that although drivers say they want safer streets for kids, many aren’t following this through by reducing their speed in local communities.

Brake and Direct Line’s survey of 1,000 drivers from across the UK finds:

  • Nearly two thirds (64%) think traffic is too fast on some or all local roads for the safety of kids on foot and bikes and 65% want action to make walking and cycling safer around schools, homes and in town and village centres
  • However six in ten (63%) admit to driving at 35mph or faster in a 30 limit and 29% do this at least once a week
  • Two thirds (67%) explained they feel pressure from other drivers to go faster in built up areas, while a third (33%) say they give in to this pressure to make them drive faster.

Five children under 16 are killed or seriously injured when walking or cycling every day in the UK. Reducing vehicle speeds can make a massive difference to the safety of kids on foot and riding bikes. At 20mph, drivers have much more time to react, to help them stop in time if they need to, for example if a child runs out into the road.

Brake is urging drivers everywhere to help make roads safer for kids by committing to slow down to 20mph around homes, schools and shops, even where the limit is 30mph. Through the GO 20 campaign, it is also calling for 20mph limits to become the norm across built-up areas. It is calling for more safe pavements, paths and crossings, so children and adults can walk and cycle for their health and enjoyment, and for cheap and sustainable travel, without being or feeling endangered.

Read about the GO 20 campaign.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “While it’s important kids and young people receive road safety education, it’s crucial that drivers take on the ultimate responsibility for protecting children on foot and bike. Our research shows there’s a contradiction in what some drivers say they want and the way they behave at the wheel. As well as campaigning for government and local authorities to do more to reduce speeds in communities to tackle pedestrian and cyclist casualties and create nicer places to live, we’re appealing to drivers everywhere to do their bit too. By slowing down to 20mph around homes, shops and schools, you’ll be helping to save lives, and enabling kids to walk and cycle more in their neighbourhoods.”

Rob Miles, head of Motor at Direct Line, said: "Whilst parents can teach children how to cross the road safely and warn them of the dangers when they are out playing or walking to school, 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'. Drivers, and not just pedestrians, have a responsibility to gauge the conditions of the community they are driving through, and we urge motorists to drive as they'd want others to if their child was playing nearby."

Why GO 20?

  • Fewer casualties: at 20, drivers have more time to react and stop in time if they need to. Studies show when 20 limits replace 30, it means fewer casualties among pedestrians and cyclists.
  • More walking and cycling: danger from traffic is a major barrier in enabling more people to walk and cycle. Town and city-wide 20 limits have resulted in more people walking and cycling.
  • Healthier, happier people: More walking and cycling means healthier people, and more enjoyable outdoors activity for kids and adults. It helps communities interact and be communities.
  • Less pollution:& GOing 20 means lower emissions from vehicle journeys. Plus if more people can switch their commute or school run to foot or bike, it means less polluting traffic.
  • Lower costs: Poor health from inactivity costs society dearly. Road casualties cost even more, due to the suffering and burden on health and emergency services. Preventing casualties and improving health means GOing 20 pays for itself many times over. It also helps people save money by choosing the cheapest ways to get about: foot and bike.

Read more about the case for GO 20.

Advice for parents

Deciding to let children walk or cycle to school unsupervised is a difficult decision for many parents, who are faced with having to weigh up the benefits of their child living an active lifestyle with the threat of their child being hurt by drivers. Research shows many are put off letting their child get out and about by traffic danger. Making roads safer helps more parents to let kids walk or cycle.

Parents who are worried that their child’s route to school isn’t safe enough have a number of options. If it’s possible, they could walk with their child to school, helping to keep them safe, or set up a walking bus with the help of other parents. They could also work with the school to set up a local campaign for safer roads, calling for measures such as a 20mph limit, crossings, pavements and paths. They can also check if their child’s school runs pedestrian and cyclist training, and encourage them to contact the local authority to provide this if they don’t.

Case study

Daniel Evans, age 14, from Sunderland, died after being hit on his way home from school. Daniel was hit by an oncoming car as he ran out into the road between two parked vehicles. He was taken to an intensive care unit at the hospital due to the extent of his injuries, where he died six days later.

Karon Hylton, Daniel’s mother, said: “We don’t know how fast the car was travelling when it hit Daniel, but it hit him hard enough to cause serious head injury and kill him. Daniel was fun, clever and full of energy, and his death has left a gaping hole in our family. He was a child with his whole life ahead, and he didn’t deserve to die for running out that day. No one can bring Daniel back, but we can hopefully stop other families suffering as we have. I urge all drivers to take Brake’s advice and slow down around homes, shops and schools, and watch out for children. Children sometimes make mistakes when using roads: it’s up to you as the responsible adult behind the wheel of a vehicle to make sure that if a child does run out, you’re going slowly and carefully enough to avoid doing them serious harm.”

Full results

Within the past 12 months, how often have you driven at 35mph or faster in a 30mph zone?

  • 4 % said daily or more than once a day
  • 12% said several times a week
  • 13% said about once a week
  • 11% said about once a month
  • 23% said less than once a month
  • 37% said never

Within the past 12 months, how often have you felt under pressure from other drivers to drive faster when in built up areas?

  • 6% said daily or more than once a day
  • 24% said several times a week
  • 16% said about once a week
  • 10% said about once a month
  • 11% said less than once a month
  • 34% said never

How often did this pressure make you drive faster?

  • 1% said daily or more than once a day
  • 6% said several times a week
  • 8% said about once a week
  • 6% said about once a month
  • 12% said less than once a month
  • 66% said never

Do you think traffic in your neighbourhood is too fast for the safety of children or adults on foot or bicycle?

  • 24% said yes, traffic is too fast on most/all local roads for safety
  • 40% said yes, traffic is too fast on some local roads for safety
  • 37% said no

Do you think more needs to be done to make walking and cycling safer around schools, homes and town/village centres in your area?

  • 38% said yes, we need some/more cycle paths
  • 15% said yes, we need some/more pavements
  • 25% said yes, we need some/more crossings
  • 29% said yes, we need some/more 20mph limits
  • 21% said yes, we need safer junctions for cyclists
  • 22% said no, we already have the above measures
  • 13% said no, I don’t think more needs to be done


Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (18-24 November 2013), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake’s support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides car, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting

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