Bereaved family back Beep Beep! initiative for safer roads for kids as survey reveals parents’ fears from fast traffic

Wednesday 18 April

Brake, the road safety charity
T: 01484 559909 E: News@brake.org.uk

The parents of Harry Charlson, a three year-old run down and killed in Guildford, are taking part in a ‘Beep Beep!’ road safety day for tots and calling for widespread 20mph limits in communities to save kids’ lives. Their calls come as a survey by Brake and Churchill Car Insurance reveals nine in ten parents (90%) say fast traffic poses a danger to families and children in their community [1].

The survey of 1,000 parents found the vast majority are crying out for action in their area to make roads safer, and to help families lead active, greener lifestyles. Four in five (81%) support 20mph speed limits around homes, schools and shops, while three in four (74%) would walk more if the safety of nearby roads was improved, such as through the introduction of more crossings and lower speed limits.

The Charlsons are attending a Beep Beep! Day at Guildford Children’s Centre where young children will learn basic road safety lessons through fun activities (see details below). It’s part of a UK-wide initiative by Brake and Churchill that involves hundreds of schools, nurseries and playgroups each year.

At the event, Brake will call on the government to listen to parents and enable, encourage and fund more local authorities to implement widespread 20mph limits. They will be urging drivers to always drive below 20mph in communities to protect kids’ lives. Read about Brake’s Slower speeds save lives campaign.

Parents’ fears for children’s safety on roads are not unfounded. Traffic is the second biggest killer of children, and the biggest non-medical killer [2]. In 2010, 2,597 children were seriously injured or killed on UK roads [3]. The majority (58%) of children killed on roads are on foot or bicycle at the time [4].

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, says: “Every time a child is killed or seriously hurt on roads it causes unimaginable heartache. Families and communities are left bereft for the needless waste of an innocent child’s life. Together we can all take steps to prevent more children being hurt and killed, and to make our communities more family friendly places, where children and adults can walk without fear. Making a commitment to driving below 20mph around homes, schools and shops is a life-saving act that all drivers can do. At the same time, we’re appealing to the government and local authorities to do more to protect children, particularly investing in more 20mph limits.”

Tony Chilcott, head of Churchill Car Insurance, says: “Beep Beep! Day is an excellent way to teach young children about road safety, and the scheme also raises awareness amongst all drivers, including parents and grandparents, of the need to drive with extreme care when young children are about. We’re pleased to be able to support such a worthwhile initiative.”

Case study

Three-year-old toddler Harry Charlson was killed on a pedestrian crossing in August. Harry, his mother Carol and older brother Jake were waiting for the lights to change at a crossing on Farnham Road in Guildford where the speed limit is 30mph. When the green man lit up, Harry thought it was safe and went to cross the road. He was almost immediately struck by an oncoming car that had ignored the red light. Harry died two days later on 21 August 2004. Harry’s death sparked a local campaign, supported by his family, to reduce the speed limit to 20mph and install a speed camera. Three years later, after a huge amount of effort by the campaigners, a speed camera was installed on the road, although the speed limit remains 30mph.

Harry’s mother Carol Charlson says: “The tragic death of our beautiful son Harry has devastated our family forever: life will never be the same. And it was totally needless: a young, innocent life snatched away, in an event that could have been prevented through safer driving and safer roads. We beg with drivers to pledge to drive below 20mph around homes, schools and communities, and always watch out for children. It’s your responsibility as an adult in control of a vehicle that can kill. We’re supporting Beep Beep! Day because it’s all about speaking up for slowing down to 20mph in communities and working together with nurseries, schools and parents to save children’s lives.”

Brake’s calls to Government

Brake wants to see the urban default speed limit reduced from 30mph to 20mph, to enable people to walk and cycle safely in their community across the country. In the meantime, Brake calls on the government to enable, encourage and fund more local authorities to implement town, village and city-wide 20mph limits, alongside other measures to protect people on foot and bicycle, like safe pavements, paths and crossings.

Brake also calls on local authorities everywhere to prioritise the safety and health of local people by taking these key steps to make walking and cycling safer.

Read more about Brake’s Slower speeds save lives campaign.

Brake’s advice for drivers

No matter how tightly a parent holds onto a child's hand, there is always a risk that the child could break free and run into the road. With older children, there is always the risk they forget to follow the green cross code. In either case, the child does not deserve to die for their mistake. Drivers have a responsibility to watch out for children and be aware of danger hotspots such as parked cars or crossings.

Slow down to 20mph or below in towns and villages, outside schools and in residential areas. It could mean the difference between life and death. At 20mph, if you are paying attention, you should just be able to stop in time if a child runs out three car lengths in front. At 30mph, you would hit that child and have a significant chance of maiming or killing them.

If you are driving past a school when children are leaving or arriving for the day you should drop your speed right down to 10mph.

Want to run your own Beep Beep! Day? If you work with children under the age of eight, call the Beep Beep! team to sign up now on 01484 559909 or go to www.brake.org.uk/beepbeepday.

End notes
[1] Survey of 1,000 parents of children under 16 conducted by Redshift research on behalf of Brake and Churchill Car Insurance in March 2012
[2] Death registrations in England and Wales: Table 2 Deaths by age, sex and underlying cause, 2010 registrations, ONS, 2011
[3] Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2010 annual report, Department for Transport, 2011 and Reported Injury Road Traffic Collision Statistics 2010, Police Service of Northern Ireland, 2011
[4] Data received from Department for Transport