Parents as role models in road safety

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report # 302

Authors: Muir, C., Devlin, A., Oxley. J., Kopinathan, C., Charlton. J.L., Koppel, S.,

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Abstract

Children represent an important, yet vulnerable, road user group: they are vehicle occupants, pedestrians, cyclists and users of small wheeled vehicles like scooters or skateboards, and constitute a substantial proportion of fatalities and serious injuries on Australia‟s roads. Indeed, young children‟s safety in traffic is of particular concern in view of their vulnerability and the special value society places on children.

Road safety education is considered an essential component of teaching children the skills to interact with traffic safely, and there is evidence that parents can play an important role as road safety role models for their children and be primary trainers in road safety skills for their children. Despite the opportunities available to parents to influence their children‟s behaviour, it is suggested that parents are often unaware of their role, crash and injury risk to children, and behavioural strategies to ensure safety in traffic.

A survey was conducted amongst 273 parents of young children between the ages of 3 and 10 years (primarily recruited through the RACV membership database) to provide an insight into the role parents play in protecting and teaching their young children road skills, their attitudes toward and behaviours relating to children‟s road safety. The findings of the survey provided a rich source of information on many aspects of safety of children on the road, particularly regarding their acquisition of road safety skills and the role that parents have played in teaching these skills. Importantly, the results have also provided some insight into parents‟ overall attitudes to and knowledge of road safety, their knowledge of the important role they play in the development of their child‟s road skills, and strategies they have adopted to teach road skills. The findings revealed a generally positive attitude to children‟s road safety and some understanding of the important role parents play in protecting and teaching children road safety. There were some suggestion, however, that parents lacked some awareness of age-appropriate child restraints in vehicles, the importance of teaching road crossing skills to young children, and that some parents may be less involved in their children‟s traffic education than they could be, despite the fact that they are in a prime position to influence their behaviours in traffic.

Recommendations therefore are made for the development of a range of resources to assist parents in their role as primary trainers of traffic skills. Such resources should aim to i) ensure parents are aware of their role as primary trainers in road safety skills, ii) provide a good understanding of the issues surrounding safety of children in traffic, and iii) provide a good understanding of evidence-based best-practice in managing the safety of their children.


Sponsoring Organisation(s): - This project was funded through the RACV Road Safety Research Fund