Ministers put road safety on school map

10th March 2000 at 00:00
ROAD-safety lessons are to become part of the personal, social and health education curriculum in schools for the first time.

Every year 5,000 children are killed or injured in accidents while walking or on their bicycle. Ministers are determined to halve that number.

The Department of Transport initiative has been welcomed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Dave Rogers, the society's safety officer, said: "It is excellent that this is recognised as an essential life skill as school-aged children are more at risk on the road than anywhere else."

He added that the Government might have to commit extra funding to ensure the policy was carried through and said it should be monitored by inspectors.

In the meantime campaigners want schools such as Huntington comprehensive in York - which is protected by a 20mph speed zone - to be the norm.

Excess speed is considered to be a factor in a third of all fatal accidents but the Government has backed away from lowering urban speed limits from 30mph to 20mph.

Keith Hill, junior transport minister, told MPs that councils would be encouraged to set up more 20mph zones around schools and to take other steps to discourage speeding.

"We have to persuade drivers to slow down and make speeding as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving," he said.

But Mr Hill did not announce any extra funding for additional traffic calming and road engineering measures that are needed to enforce 20mph limits.

Chris Bridge, headteacher of Huntington comprehensive, said the 20mph zone around his school would not work without extra measures such as road bumps.

"We haven't had a road accident outside the school since the speed zone was introduced a year ago. Not everyone drives by the school at 20mph but the speed is noticeably slower." He added there was less traffic as a result of the speed bumps.

"And because the traffic is slower, children are happier to cycle to school. It also means staff can get out of the school more

easily."

A Department of Transport spokeswoman said the Government has allocated pound;750 million to councils to be spent on transport and expects them to pay for measures such as 20mph zones out of this cash. "The money is there in local transport plans, it is up to individual councils how it's spent," she added.

A number of agencies including Transport 2000 and RoSPA say they are disappointed that there is no new specific funding to back up road safety proposals announced in the Government strategy last week.

THE STRATEGY AIMS TO...

reduce deaths and injuries among child pedestrians by 50 per cent and to cut all road deaths by 40 per cent over 10 years;

raise the minimum age for taking the driving test to 18 years;

introduce more severe penalties for motorists who are well over the drink drive limit;

make road safety education part of the personal, social and health education curriculum in schools for the first time.


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