Road safety policy

An overview of government policy and initiatives relating to child safety on the roads.

Public health strategy and outcomes framework

The 2010 public health strategy Healthy Lives, Healthy People highlighted the need to reduce road injuries in children and address strong social and regional variations in road accidents.

The public health outcomes framework, which supports the new public health strategy, was published in 2012. Within the framework, indicator 1.10 ‘number of people killed or seriously injured casualties on England's roads’ tracks the impact of road accidents among people of all ages. Road accidents among children and young people are also captured through indicator 2.7 ‘hospital admissions caused by unintentional and deliberate injuries in under 18s’.

Strategic framework for road safety

The Strategic framework for road safety, published in 2011, sets out roles and responsibilities for local authorities, road safety professionals and other stakeholders involved in improving road safety. It outlines policies that are designed to reduce deaths and injuries on the roads, with some operating at a national level and others based on local priorities, circumstances and economic assessment. In a change to previous approaches to road safety, the framework replaced road safety targets with an action plan and outcomes framework that includes a number of indicators.

In July 2012 the Commons Select Committee on Transport published its second report on road safety, which examined the strategic framework in light of an increase in road deaths in 2011.

Safe, green and active agenda

The need for safer roads is linked to the new public health strategy and other government strategies to increase physical activity and ‘active travel’. Walking and cycling help to improve children’s physical health and mental wellbeing. Making more journeys on foot and by bike is also more environmentally sustainable and helps to reduce air pollution which is linked to childhood asthma.

Having independent mobility – the freedom to play and travel around in their local neighbourhood without adult supervision – is important to children’s wellbeing and development. Yet children have far less independent mobility now than they did in the past, with road safety concerns preventing many parents from letting their children go out unsupervised.1 However, the latest road casualty statistics suggest that encouraging children to be more physically active may have unintended consequences. Provisional DfT figures for 2012 showed an 8% rise in the number of child pedestrians killed or seriously injured in the third quarter of the year, from 390 to 420.2 Some experts pointed to the effect of the Olympics and efforts to encourage children to be more physically active.

Our learning nugget from Bristol Public Health describes local work on cycling designed to integrate injury prevention and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.


There is a clear link between road safety and health inequalities, with children who live in the most deprived areas having a much greater risk of being injured in a road accident compared to those living in more affluent areas.

An analysis of five years’ data covering more than 120,000 child road casualties showed that children in Preston were more than twice as likely to be injured on the road than the national average, and five times more likely than those in Kensington & Chelsea.3 Of all child pedestrian casualties, 40% come from the most deprived 20% of society.4

The Strategic framework for road safety notes there is a need to reduce the relatively high risk of some groups more quickly, including that of children in deprived areas.

European initiatives

The government supports the European Commission’s goal of achieving a 50% reduction in the number of road casualties by 2020. This goal applies to the total number of casualties across the EU, rather than within each member country.

Related content

Notes for this article

  1. Children’s independent mobility: a comparative study in England and Germany (1971-2010), Policy Studies Institute, 2013.
  2. Reported road casualties Great Britain: provisional estimates Q3 2012, Department for Transport, 2013.
  3. Child Casualties Report 2010: A study into resident risk of children on roads in Great Britain 2004-08, Road Safety Analysis Ltd, 2010.
  4. Stepping Out, Pedestrian Casualties: an analysis of the people and circumstances, Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, 2013.
Updated July 2013