Have you noticed there are fewer lollipop men and women helping children to cross the road safely?
They used to be a common sight near schools, stationed along busy roads dressed brightly in reflective yellow jackets.
But, according to figures that the BBC obtained via Freedom of Information requests, the number of council-funded school crossing patrols has dropped by more than a quarter (28%) between 2013 and 2018.
The falling number of lollipop people could be putting kids at greater risk of injury from crossing the road alone. As road safety charity Brake says, lollipop people have a “key role to play in making our streets safer, not least as they offer a friendly face that encourages active and sustainable travel”.
The reduction in lollipop people could also discourage parents from letting their children walk to school, despite the benefits walking has for their health and the environment.
Unfortunately, the situation looks unlikely to improve. There are reports that cash-strapped councils, facing a funding hole, may cut crossing patrols further as they’re among services that they’re not legally obliged to provide.
A safe walk to school
There is no legal minimum age at which children can walk on their own to school. But according to one YouGov survey, ten is the average age at which Britons think it’s OK for their children to go to school alone.
Whatever the age of your child, if they walk to school, there are things you can do to help them stay safe – whether or not there are crossing patrols on route.
Here are some tips from Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity; first to teach road awareness to your child and then to enable them to walk without you:
- Set an example: stop, look and listen, don't take risks and avoid using your mobile phone when crossing the road.
- Bend down to their eye level to get an idea of what they can and can't see.
- Find a safe place to cross where you can see easily, ideally at a crossing or away from parked cars. When it's clear, walk straight across.
- Talk about the traffic you see on your way and the best places to cross, and ask questions about the speed and size of different vehicles.
- Practice walking to school together. Let them lead the way and start making decisions about where and when to cross.
- Once you’re both more confident, let them walk a little further ahead.
- When they’re ready to walk to school without you, work out a quiet route together. Walk the route with them to point out good crossing points and things to watch out for.
- Encourage them to walk with a school friend, but remind them to avoid distractions such as chatting, using a mobile phone or wearing earphones when crossing roads.
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