Changes in Children's Independent Mobility: Implications for Interpreting German Road Safety
B Frauendienst, Ruhr-University Bochum, DE
A follow up study on the One False Move report from 1990 did show a drop in children's independent mobility in Germany. The aim of this talk is to highlight the project's results and the implications for future research and road safety practitioners.
The 1990 study "One False Move" by Mayer Hillman, John Adams and John Whitelegg did make a serious contribution on how to interpret road safety statistics. Comparing survey data from 1970 and 1990 they found out that parallel to dropping numbers of children injured or killed in traffic, a large reduction of children's independent mobility could be noticed. This implied that one reason for roads becoming statistically safer is that fewer children were exposed to traffic dangers. They also underlined that children's independent mobility therefore should be taken as an indicator for children's road safety and their parents perception of it respectively.
Parallel to the survey in Britain this research was also conducted with the same methodology at ten schools in Germany. A direct comparison of both countries shows that German children did have a lot more of the so called "six licences" that were used to measure children's independent mobility. Now, 20 years later, the chance arose to repeat the survey and to get both, a 40-years-comparison for Britain and a first longitudinal comparison of children's independent mobility in Germany.
The German part of this 2010 study was conducted by the Geography Department of Ruhr-University Bochum and financed by the German Road Safety Council (Deutscher Verkehrssicherheits Rat). In the German context the assumption was that there might have been some changes in children's independent mobility because of
- changes in the overall modal split since 1990,
- closing down of primary schools in rural and suburban areas,
- an introduction of an unrestricted right to choose the primary school for one's child, and
- constant drops in the numbers of children killed or injured in road accidents.
In the course of the project children and their parents from five primary and five secondary schools were questioned in February 2010. In seven out of these ten cases it was possible to conduct the research with the help of the same schools as in 1990. In total 801 students were successfully asked to fill out a standardised questionnaire, handed out to children 7 to 15 years old. In the primary schools the parent's response rate was 89%. At the secondary schools 62% of the parents answered the parent's questionnaire. Both questionnaires were coded and handed out in a way so that the children's answers could be analysed against their parent's answers.
The results from the German survey did show that although still comparably high to the British results, children's independent mobility in Germany did face a reduction since 1990. Especially German primary school children were highly influenced. Two schools developed different distinctive travel patterns, depending on local influencing factors:
- a "car school", where children get driven to and from school up to five times more often than in 1990, ending up with 45% car use in the modal split,
- and an "escort school", where, although still using hardly any motorized transportation, the children's general licence to come home from school independently has dropped from 95% to 65%.
These results have implications for both, future scientific research and policy decision makers. Therefore the aim of this talk will be to present the key results from the 2010 study and future challenges for road safety research and policy. Central questions will be:
- How does the extent of children's independent mobility influence the result of road accident statistics and what are its implications for transport policy and urban planning?
- What negative effects can be expected in the life of grown-ups if they did not learn how to travel about independently in their childhood?
Association for European Transport