Walking to school alone can be an exciting part of growing up for a child, it signifies the start of increasing independence, but the question is what age is the right age? The start of secondary school often marks the transition to walking alone, and unsurprisingly age 11-12 are the most dangerous years for child road safety incidents. According to the AA, an 11-year-old is twice as likely as a 10-year-old to be killed or seriously injured in a road accident on the school journey. Although there is no official age in which a child can walk to school in the UK, most councils recommend that children can walk alone to school from the age of 8.
Being hit by a car is the leading cause of death for children aged 5-9 years old. But why is this?
The University of London conducted a study which found the key contributing factors that impact children being seriously injured or killed whilst out walking. The study involved a realistic simulation of a car approaching on a roadway, sometimes varying in size and speed. Subjects would either see the car directly in front of them or off to the side, reporting whether the image of the car expanded or stayed the same.
Findings showed that the children’s perception improved with age, however even older children in the study did not match the ability of adults to detect a vehicle approaching. This is because perception is a complex and fundamental skill that is developed over time, which as adults, we often take for granted because we do so automatically.
Aside from perceptual development, children are easily distracted and often don’t see cars coming. What’s more, is they’re smaller so are more likely to sustain fatal injuries when hit. The research would suggest that the older the walk to school age, the better, however there will always be a safety risk no matter the age.
Alongside the potential risks, there are several benefits of a child walking to school on their own. The act helps to foster independence, allows them extra exercise, enables the child to learn road safety in a practical sense and is better for the environment.
There is no right age for a child to walk to school alone, the best we can do as parents is to educate our children on how to make the journey safely and help them to be seen by oncoming vehicles. According to the Transportation Research Board, over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian deaths took place between the hours of 3 pm and 7 pm. As the evenings begin to get darker it’s more important than ever to help our children stay seen. The Million Mile Light is a road safety light that will help your kids be seen up to 200 meters away, that’s 44 car lengths. It’s battery free and powered by motion, so you never have to worry about it running out on your child’s walk to or from school.
For more on this, check out our blog on Top Tips To Help Prepare Your Child For The Walk To School.