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One False Move

Mayer Hillman, John Adams and John Whitelegg

Over the past two decades, child fatalities from road accidents in Britain have nearly halved, while the volume of traffic in Britain has nearly doubled. On the one hand, government argues that the roads have become 'much safer'; on the other, it warns that they are extremely dangerous through campaigns with themes such as 'One false move and you're dead.' This study was inspired by the inherent contradictions in government's position. The analysis challenges the conventional orthodoxy that road accidents are a true measure of road safety.

In 1971, 80 per cent of seven and eight year old children were allowed to go to school without adult supervision. By 1990, this figure fell to 9 per cent. Road accidents involving children have declined not because the roads have become safer but because children can no longer be exposed to the dangers they pose. Systematic surveys were carried out of how children and their parents behave in response to the risk of accidents in ten areas in Britain and Germany. Clear evidence was found that restrictions on the independent mobility of children were a direct result of the fears of parents. In addition, parents have been steadily increasing the amount of time they spend escorting their children. This further contributes to traffic conjestion and increased danger from traffic.

The study proposes new measures of road safety. They would result in the restoration to children of much of the childhood freedom and choice that they are being denied by danger on the roads.

15.00 paperback ISBN 0 85374 494 7
1990 190 pages 216 x 135mm


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