The Invisible Referee

21st Century Traffic Control: The Invisible Referee University of Southampton

Pedestrian training fit for the 21st century

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Road Safety: a Global Issue

Road traffic ‘accidents’ are a significant global issue responsible for killing 1.3 million people every year and injuring many millions more. That amounts to more than 3500 people killed on roads every day, yet despite this there is very little media attention given to the issue; hence the true extent of the problem often goes unnoticed.

While over 90% of road traffic fatalities occur in less developed countries (for example, countries in Africa and Asia), the problem still exists in more developed countries such as the United Kingdom, where over 2000 deaths occur on our roads annually.

Child pedestrians: Road Safety in the United Kingdom

A particular area of concern in the United Kingdom is the number of child pedestrians killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the roads. Figures released in 2010 showed that in 2008, 1568 child pedestrians were killed or seriously injured roads in Great Britain. Many countries, such as Sweden, Germany and Australia, all perform better in relation to the road safety of child pedestrians and more needs to be done to address the problem here.

While most people are familiar with road safety publicity messages such as the ‘Green Cross Code’ and ‘Be Safe Be Seen,’ many are unaware that local authorities are now offering practical child pedestrian training at the roadside, aimed at directly improving child pedestrian road safety.

Child pedestrian training is generally based on ‘Kerbcraft’; an expensive and time consuming, but effective, training scheme trialled nationally from 2002 to 2007. While Kerbcraft was found to improve the on-street behaviour and skills of child pedestrians, many local authorities are only able to offer scaled down versions of the scheme since funding was withdrawn; and as government cuts increase, the strain on these training schemes is likely to get worse, and the number of schemes offered reduced.

The withdrawal of child pedestrian training services is already occurring in many local authorities, leading to increased use of in-class road safety activities, for example worksheets, which are less effective at improving roadside pedestrian skills due to a lack of knowledge transfer from the classroom to the road.

In partnership with Hampshire County Council, the Transportation Research Group are exploring alternative ways of improving the delivery of child pedestrian training; making it more effective and engaging, whilst delivering it at cheaper cost.

Pedestrian training fit for the 21st Century

The uptake of smart devices (such as iPhones and iPads), mobile computing and mobile internet is rapidly increasing amongst children. This provides a real opportunity to revolutionise the way in which road safety messages are delivered.

Through the use of smart tagging technology such as QR codes and interactive media made available via the internet (e.g. online games and videos), a virtual road environment could be created which may offer effective means of teaching ‘hard’ pedestrian skills from a safe, in-class, controlled environment. These new in-class activities could offer a more engaging alternative to existing in-class road safety activities.

By improving the transfer of classroom based knowledge to skills on the road and they may prove to be a viable alternative to practical pedestrian training.

Watch the YouTube video to find out more!