Road safety education for young people with special needs: Vale School’s Travelators

Young people's views

The perspectives of young people with physical and learning disabilities rarely get the spotlight when it comes to travel and road safety, but a project in London has taken steps to change this. Vale School in Tottenham’s Travelators project video ‘Travel light, travel right’ makes it clear what issues matter to young people when it comes to getting about. 

The action-packed video includes walking and travelling by bus and covers keeping calm, asking bus drivers to wait until you have sat down, avoiding distractions, not going with strangers, planning journeys and asking for help.
UK casualty statistics do not record learning disabilities among people injured or killed on roads, although US research (Strauss et al, 2008) has found that the risk of adult pedestrians being killed was more than double that of those without a disability.

Creating the video 

The video was developed by Vale School’s Youth Travel Ambassadors (YTA) as part of the Transport for London (TfL) youth-led programme for secondary schools and sixth form centres. The scheme enables young people aged 11-19 to make a difference to the transport issues affecting their school communities.

The young people worked with a TfL project facilitator, Matt Fox, and Richard Tharp, a teacher at the school, to identify the topics the video should cover. The content is based on real-life situations the young people had experienced including dealing with parents’ misgivings about their ability to travel independently safely.

The video was funded after a successful Dragons’ Den pitch by the YTS. Matt Fox helped the team gain access to a London bus with driver. Richard Tharp worked with them and produced the video. The Mr Big character in the film is an ex-pupil. The project was also supported by Wendy Thorogood, Smarter Travel Officer at Haringey Council.

The Travelators won the 2016 London Road Safety Award

Other young people’s views on road safety

Several organisations provide a platform for young people to express their views about issues related to travel and road safety. For example:

Fixers are young people using their past to fix the future. Road crashes are the biggest single killer of young people in the UK and individual fixers are motivated by personal experience to make positive change. The Fixers’ Road Savvy campaign highlights six principal issues: drink and drug driving; distractions inside/outside the car; peer pressure; speeding; lack of hazard perception; and education. 

YOURS: Youth for road safety was established following the United Nations World Youth Assembly for Road Safety in 2007. It is now an official member of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC), the body for road safety issues through the UN system, and its work is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In terms of more formal research, the Scottish Government commissioned qualitative research with young people aged 16-25 to inform the Scottish road safety strategy. It covered general views on road safety; what makes a good driver? what makes a good passenger; drinking alcohol, taking drugs and driving; seatbelt wearing; speeding; mobile phones and driving; tiredness; urban and rural roads; insurance and driving licences; and influences on behaviour including peer pressure.

Tilly Line et al (2010) explored the future travel intentions of young people aged 11-18 in the context of climate change. The discussion included exploring the young people’s attitudes and values about becoming future drivers.

More information

  1. Fixers  
  2. Line T (2010) The travel behaviour of young people in the context of climate change, Journal of Transport Geography 18, 238-246 27
  3. London road safety award 2016
  4. Strauss D, Shavelle R, Anderson T W and Baumeister A (1998). External causes of death among persons with developmental disability: the effect of residential placement. American Journal of Epidemiology, 147 (9), 855-862.
  5. Travelators project video ‘Travel light, travel right’
  6. Vale School in Tottenham has also produced videos that promote empowerment including Build it 
  7. YOURS: Youth for road safety
  8. Youth Travel Ambassadors
  9. MacMillan K and Hewitt E (2008) Qualitative research with young people. Scottish Government Social Research. Transport Research Series. 
Updated January 2017