As a parent, you will have understandable road safety concerns for your child which are likely to change as your child gets older. Road crashes are the biggest cause of death among 5-25 year-olds. But there are key steps you can take to help protect your child. This page provides simple advice from your child's birth to reaching the age when they may start learning to drive or be a passenger with other young drivers.
And why not make the Brake Pledge as a family, to show your commitment to road safety?
KIDS IN CARS
✔ Never hold a child in your arms in a vehicle - use a modern child seat suitable for their size and weight. Keep using a child or booster seat appropriate for your child’s size until they’re 150cm tall. Buy one with the United Nations E mark or BS Kitemark and don’t use second-hand.
✔ Follow the fitting instructions exactly. If possible, fit the seat in the middle of the back of your car. If you need to use a taxi, book one you can fit your baby seat into.
à Take a look at our letter to parents on 2017 car seat law changes.
à Read more advice on baby seats and child restraints.
Safe vehicles and safe driving
✔ The safety of your child in cars also depends on the protection provided by the vehicle. If you're buying a car, check out its crash test rating and buy the safest you can.
✔ The other critical factor is your driving. So stay well within speed limits, never drive after drinking any alcohol or when stressed, tired or distracted, and switch off your phone.
Accepting lifts from friends and relatives
✔ It is just as important that your child is appropriately restrained in other people's cars, and driven slowly and safely. If you are unsure, don't let them go. In some situations it might be socially awkward, but the safety of your child must always be priority.
FAMILIES ON FOOT
Buggies and push chairs
✔ If you use a buggy or push chair, strap in your child securely and keep the buggy well back from the edge of the road when getting ready to cross. If you can carry the weight, front and back carriers are a safer way to carry babies near busy roads, and mean your hands are free.
✔ If you use a buggy on hilly streets, use a strap that goes around your wrist and the buggy handle; it means if you slip and let go, the buggy won't roll away.
✔ When your child first starts to walk with you, talk to them about how they must always hold your hand. Make sure hand-holding is your number one rule your child always follows, especially when crossing roads. If your child is likely to pull away from you, use safety reins or a wrist strap.
Teach road safety
✔ Teach road safety to your child from the age of two using fun games and rhymes. You can use our Beep Beep! Day activities for fun ways to teach road safety. Make sure they understand the meaning of stop, go, traffic, danger, look, listen, walk don't run, and other key road safety words.
à Encourage your child's nursery or playgroup to teach road safety through Brake’s Beep Beep! Day.
✔ If your child is going on a nursery or school trip by coach or minibus, check if they are using a modern vehicle with three-point seatbelts.
à See our advice for teachers on school trips and check if the nursery or school is following this advice.
When to allow your child to walk on their own around local roads
✔ Children under eight should always be accompanied by and hold hands with an adult around roads, particularly when crossing.
✔ When your child reaches the age of eight, you should consider whether to allow them to walk independently. It can be a tough decision as you will need to consider their development and weigh up the benefits of them being active and healthy with traffic danger in your area.
✔ When you decide to let your child walk independently, remind them about the importance of crossing safely using the Green Cross Code, paying attention to the road, and help them to plan the safest possible route (along quiet, slow roads with pavements or traffic-free paths) to school, the park or their friends' houses.
✔ If you are concerned about traffic danger in your area, such as due to fast traffic or a lack of pavements, you could also start a campaign for a 20mph limit or pavements and crossings, or whatever your community needs, using Brake’s advice.
✔ You can also encourage your child's school to organise practical pedestrian training, which is usually offered by local authority road safety teams.
Whether to allow your child to cycle on roads in your community
✔ Brake recommends that children under 10 don’t cycle on roads. Many roads are unsafe for children, particularly fast and bendy rural roads and busy town roads without separate space for cyclists.
✔ Happily, some communities now have great cycling facilities, including separate paths for cyclists, which can be a great way for children to start enjoying the benefits of cycling while they are safe from traffic.
à If your area doesn’t have cycling facilities, why not start a campaign.
✔ You can also help your child gain experience through cycle training arranged through their school or the local authority. Even if it's not safe for them to cycle on local roads, this is helpful for them starting to gain experience, and great if you are planning a cycling holiday.
✔ Make sure their bike is well-maintained with working brakes and lights, which they should use in poor visibility, although cycling in the dark is best avoided.
✔ If your child cycles on roads, help them plan the safest possible routes making use of traffic-free paths and quiet, slow roads. Tell them to get off and walk their bike on the pavement if they have to negotiate any busy junctions.
à Read more advice for cyclists.
TEENS AND YOUNG PEOPLE
Going to secondary school
✔ Your child's risk of being injured on foot or on a bicycle increases as they gain independence – far more teens are knocked down and hurt than younger children. Peer pressure can also cause children to behave unsafely. Keep talking about road safety with your child, ensure they know the importance of continuing to take great care when crossing including putting their phone away and taking earphones out, and help them plan the safest possible routes in your area.
à Teens can get advice and resources, and watch videos on road safety in Brake’s young people and road safety section, and secondary educators can attend Brake's engaging young people training to help pupils feel committed to road safety.
Accepting lifts from mates
✔ Talk to your son or daughter about the dangers of accepting lifts from mates driving cars or motorbikes. Young drivers, young males in particular, are the highest risk group of drivers due to their age and inexperience: this means they are particularly likely to take risks and less able to cope with hazards.
✔ It’s safest to avoid lifts altogether with young drivers, or at least don’t get a lift with someone you don’t trust completely to drive under speed limits, completely sober, and focused on the road.
✔ Agree with your son or daughter that you will always pick them up if they are stuck and need you to, even if it's late at night. Make sure they're always able to get hold of you if they need to, and tell them they can call you any time, day or night. It might be an inconvenience, but better safe than sorry. If you don't drive, give your son or daughter emergency numbers and tell them you have cash in the house to pay for it in case they get stranded without a lift and need to get home.
Learning to drive
✔ Many young people see driving as their route to independence. But the younger someone learns to drive, the greater the risk of them crashing and being seriously hurt or killed.
✔ There is often no need for young people to drive or own a car; it's dangerous, expensive, and harmful to the environment. Help your son or daughter to look at the alternatives to driving and understand the benefits of not driving, especially the money they will save. If they are going on to further education, they will probably be living somewhere with access to public transport. Encourage them to spend their cash on something more constructive than a car, such as a great holiday.
✔ If they are determined to learn to drive, you could offer an incentive to delay, for example offering to pay for their driving lessons if they wait until they are 21, or funding their use of public transport in the meantime.
Advice for young people
Read more and take action:
- Make the Brake Pledge with your family
- Explore Brake’s training and resources for engaging young people
- Check out Brake’s projects for schools, colleges and nurseries
- Get involved in Road Safety Week
- Get advice on running a road safety campaign in your area
- Donate to Brake or fundraise in your community