Think about this. Between 2005-2014 there were 1877 pedestrian fatalities in, representing approximately 13% of all road fatalities nation-wide Australia (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, 2015a). Breaking it down a little further, 174 (9.3%) of these fatalities were children aged 0-16 years.
While shocking on their own, it’s important to remember that these numbers reflect only fatalities and not serious injuries or hospitalisations. As such, they significantly underrepresent the level of pedestrian injury in Australia. Some slightly older research looking at serious pedestrian injury is a little more telling. In the eight-year period between 2002-03 to 2009-10 some 5216 children aged 0-14 years suffered serious injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident in Australia (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, 2012). Wow.
Understanding a little about these accidents is also useful. While most occurred on the road, a significant number also happened around the home or in other ‘non-traffic locations’ such as car parks, sporting grounds and schools (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, 2012). There goes the comfortable illusion that kids will be safe away from the road! Additionally, it isn’t always four wheeled vehicles that are involved in these types of accidents. While cars, trucks and 4×4’s contribute to vast majority of these fatalities and injuries others result from accidents with motorcycles, three wheeled vehicles and bicycles (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, 2012).
In our research, we found nothing that specifically looks at pedestrian and road safety for children (or adults) with additional needs. What we do know though, is that kids with additional needs are more vulnerable and at higher risk than developmentally typical kids. The development of pedestrian and road safety skills relies of the interaction of a child’s cognitive, social/emotional and physical development. Children who experience delays in one or more of these areas may struggle to understand and to demonstrate safe behavior. Delayed processing time and reaction times will also have an impact on a child’s ability to respond to danger similar to typically developing children. Behavioral regulation, difficulties in maintaining attention, sensory issues, physical impairment or disability. All of these will place a child with additional needs at greater risk.