This week marks Family Safety Week 2019, a coordinated effort from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents where they work to raise awareness about the thousands of preventable accidents that happen every year, putting children and families at risk. While there are around 14,000 people killed by accidents in the UK every year, the focus for 2019 is on pedestrian safety. For the past few decades, our lives have been dominated by cars; to the extent where we now need congestion charges, car share schemes and more to counteract the immense traffic levels. However, this natural dependence on automobiles has left the most recent generations facing an unexpected struggle when it comes to road safety.
It seems strange that in 2019 we need to discuss simple matters like crossing a road or other pedestrian risks, as we’ve been dealing with automobiles since the 1800s and mass-produced cars since the early 20th Century. Surely this is something we should have mastered by now?
In 2017, there were 24,831 serious injuries in road traffic accidents reported to the police, of which 1,793 people were killed. 26% of the fatalities were pedestrians, showing a serious concern for how we approach staying safe on the road.
Why does this involve social workers, when we have so many other requirements on our time, I hear you ask? In 2017, 5,838 children aged under 15 were injured in road accidents. That’s 5,838 children and young people who sustained preventable injuries, raising a question about the extended safeguarding process. If we’re working to protect children from unsafe home environments, shouldn’t we also make sure they are safe out of the home as well?
The primary responsibility for teaching children road safety skills should still lie with families and schools, as the main contact points for those under 18. However, the extended community should play a role in ensuring the future generations know how to stay safe with automotive technology. Cars will only get more and more advanced as time goes on, so we all need to understand that they still pose risks and a level of human awareness and consciousness is needed to avoid having an accident. In addition, a lot of the vulnerable children who naturally are part of the social work sphere might be more susceptible to road accidents, due to learning or physical disabilities, or even mental health issues which affect their caution and overall safety. Therefore, it’s important for those in our sector to advocate for an increase in the education surrounding road safety, as part of our overall campaign to help keep young people safe.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have put together information packs to further develop the way we educate both children and adults about their interactions with the road and automobiles. They shouldn’t be the only ones though, and most importantly, the education should be tailored to suit every demographic. As with so many generalist issues within society, anyone who doesn’t fit into a neat tidy box is marginalised from appropriate education about how to protect themselves. Those with disorders or illnesses which impact their relationship with the road aren’t always given personalised guidelines, and those without are rarely taught about how to support people who may take longer crossing the road or who may treat road safety differently. For example, children with a learning disability might view the road or cars with a level of curiosty that is not tampered by natural societal instincts to be cautious. Or children from unsafe backgrounds, where they may not have the standard parental guidance, might not know how to cross a road safely or the risks that come with playing near high traffic areas. If the social work community became a stronger voice in this debate, we’d be able to collectively protect thousands of children and young people who are killed or injured every year. By promoting higher levels of road awareness and education, our society will ensure that future generations not only have sufficient pedestrian safety knowledge, but also evolve into more capable and considerate drivers. All in all, this is a win win. And the best part is, that it’s so simple to enact.
Education is key in this matter. All we need is a bigger push towards more road safety classes in schools being driven from the local government down. In addition, social workers should make sure to keep a particular eye out for the vulnerable children and young people they work with in regard to roads and automobiles. Are they out driving on their own, posing a threat to other drivers or pedestrians due to their emotional instability? Perhaps some trauma you’re working through with them is making them careless when walking along the pavement. We all know that the issues which bring in a social worker can have ripple on effects across the entire lifespan of a vulnerable child; but currently, we’re not talking about how it may make them more susceptible to preventable accidents. Family Safety Week isn’t just about parents remembering to keep knives out of the reach of small children or watching out for if they choke on a small toy. Our community in social work is a family of sorts. We look out to protect each other from harm, and we support the chilcren and young people within our community to ensure they fulfil their potential. Therefore, Family Safety Week needs to be on our radar within social work, so that we can continue to look after our service users and prevent them from having potentially fatal, but vastly preventable accidents.
While you're here...
One Stop Social has a whole range of useful resources to help keep children and young people safe, in lots of different areas of their lives, not just in regards to road safety. To find out more, head to our Resources Page, and don’t forget to let us know if you have a relevant guide, tool or book you’d like to recommend to our social work community!