Children in deprived areas "at greater road risk"

LONDON (Reuters) - Children in deprived areas are four times more likely to be killed in road accidents than those in wealthier locations, a report by MPs said on Thursday.

A cyclist rides his bike towards Sydney's central business district October 14, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

The Public Accounts Committee also said more should be done to examine the “irresponsible behaviour of some cyclists” and what impact they had.

Although Britain is one of the safest countries in the world in terms of road deaths, the death rate of child pedestrians was worse than in many other countries, the committee said.

In 2007, 646 pedestrians and 136 cyclists were killed, with more than 30,000 pedestrians and 16,000 cyclists injured.

The committee called for the Department of Transport (DfT) to introduce more road safety measures, such as speed humps, 20 mph zones and speed cameras, saying the current child casualty rate was unacceptable.

The committee said the higher death rate in deprived areas might be because children in such places were more likely to be unsupervised and to be near roads when they returned from school.

“The department’s approach towards child deaths must be one of zero tolerance,” said the PAC’s chairman Edward Leigh.

“It should give priority to promoting child pedestrian road safety schemes in deprived areas, which suffer disproportionately from such casualties.”

The MPs’ report said the number of deaths and injuries of cyclists had fallen since the mid-1990s but that from 2004 to 2007 there had been an 11 percent increase, despite no significant rise in the amount of cycling.

It said the DfT appeared unaware that many people thought some cyclists were a “hazard to themselves and other road users.”

“Some cyclists are perceived to behave irresponsibly, such as riding on pavements and disregarding red traffic signals, thereby posing a danger to themselves and making other road users including elderly pedestrians feel unsafe,” they said.

The DfT said only a minority of cyclists were irresponsible.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison