Dr Sarah O’Toole, Research Associate, Centre for Transport Studies, University College London

Dr Sarah O’Toole has a PhD in developmental psychology and her research focuses on children and road safety.

Sarah’s work involves increasing understanding of road traffic injury risk in childhood, prevention and intervention methods and evaluation of road safety initiatives. She is particularly interested in the link between special educational needs and disabilities and road safety, and involving young people in road safety research.

Previous projects have included: a research project funded by the Road Safety Trust on involving parents of children under 11 years-old in road safety education; and a project funded by the Department for Education exploring how young people aged 7 to 18 years-old with Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or Cognitive Impairment experience the roads and learn about road safety.

Presentation: Children and the Roads: Who are the children most at risk of road traffic injury?

Children represent a vulnerable group on the roads. It has been consistently found that children from more deprived backgrounds are at increased risk of road traffic injury.

Despite this, limited attention has been directed towards understanding patterns of road traffic injury across childhood. Research has failed to consider different developmental stages of childhood, the modes of travel children are using, and their exposure to the road environment.

Children advance in their cognitive, behavioural, and motor abilities with age and their patterns of road use change. It is therefore essential to understand how this is reflected in their road traffic injury risk.

Building on this, factors such as special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are rarely taken into account when exploring road traffic injury in children. The symptom profiles associated with many categories of SEND (e.g. impulse control in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or sensory overload in Autism) may impact road traffic injury risk and make these children particularly vulnerable.

This presentation will explore a body of research pertaining to road traffic injury across childhood. The presentation will detail the findings of projects funded by the Road Safety Trust and Department for Transport that have explored road traffic injury across childhood and deprivation levels as well as road safety and special educational needs. The presentation will outline patterns of risk and highlight those groups of children who are most vulnerable on the roads.