Children should learn about road safety as early as possible
Road safety should be a mandatory part of the National Curriculum for primary and secondary school children, says a road safety charity.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has called for traffic education to become an integral part of the National Curriculum, in an effort to cut the numbers of young people killed and injured on UK roads.
''Reducing young driver risk'' is one of the central aims of the IAM's Road Safety Manifesto; the first part of which calls for road safety education to form part of the curriculum. The proposal ties in with a survey by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) which found only eight of 15 European countries had mandatory traffic education in schools.
Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain and Latvia all operate mandatory traffic education programmes while Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK have voluntary programmes.
Neil Greig, IAM Director of Policy and Research, said: "Unless it's part of the curriculum, it won't become part of a young person's thinking and educators won't be obliged to teach it. Other countries have teaching on road safety as part of primary and secondary education, so why shouldn't we have it too?"
Young driver education in Europe
Italian primary schools have a course divided up into three parts - road safety including road rules, environment and health considerations. Public bodies such as the ACI (Automobile Club d'Italia) are encouraged by the Italian government to deliver such courses to schools.
Latvia goes even further, requiring traffic skills to be tested after the 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th grades with age-appropriate tests including knowing your route to school, and understanding the responsibilities as a driver or cyclist on the road.
In Germany, two years are dedicated to teaching children how to ride a bicycle in traffic, while in Poland rules applying to pedestrians, cyclists and moped riders are taught to youngsters at seven and 15-years-old.
Although the numbers of people killed and injured on UK roads have been steadily decreasing for many years, the rate of decrease has slowed recently.
In 2013, 1,713 people were killed in road accidents, the lowest number on record, and half as many as in 2000. The total number of casualties of all severities in 2013 was 183,670.
The total reported child casualties (aged 0-15) fell by nine per cent to 15,756 in 2013. The number of children killed or seriously injured also fell, decreasing by 13 per cent to 1,980 in 2013.
However, pedestrians were the second highest casualty type by category.
Despite the fall in casualty numbers, the IAM says the figures remain unacceptable and repeatedly calls for greater training and awareness to help deliver a further marked reduction.
Mr Greig added: "Some countries in Europe have very structured and well organised programmes aimed at young people through their time in education.
"With ambitious targets being set on reducing the numbers of young people killed and injured on our roads, we believe having road safety education as part of the National Curriculum is a sure way to achieving those aims."