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Road safety for infants, children and young people – Road safety in the first 1,000 weeks of life

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Abstract

The road safety of infants, children and youth encompasses dramatic periods of development and maturation, with a transition from total dependency changing to independence occurring over a timescale measured in decades. Three major phases can be discerned over this time: • A period of passivity in infancy, with a strong focus on occupant protection of babies and young children; • A period of change, as children become more independent and mobile as pedestrians and bicyclists, yet still retaining major passive characteristics as a vehicle passenger; and • A period of independence as young people, when teenagers enter into the driver licensing system as novice, or beginning, drivers and become primarily responsible for their own mobility Through these phases, infants, children and young people experience the constraints of safety systems in vehicles and on roadways that have been designed to protect them from harm in motor vehicle crashes, are exposed to the modelling of both safe and unsafe road behaviours in real life and in entertainment, and experience educational interventions and public advertising created to increase their knowledge and effect attitudinal change towards safer road behaviour. It is a time of immense challenge for legislators, for policy makers, program developers, and communities to ensure the safety of infants, children and young people as road users within road transport systems. These challenges include the liveability of urban environments, tension between motorised and non-motorised transport, ageing road transport and mass transit infrastructure, the likely passing of peak oil, and the challenge of developing viable non-petroleum fuel sources. The 2007 annual conference of the Australasian College of Road Safety was focused on “Infants, Children and Young People, and Road Safety”, reflecting the inaugural 2007 UN Global Road Safety Week theme. The conference aimed to review indicators and trends in injury involving infants, children and young people, examine the current research into aspects of road safety affecting infants, children and young people, explore projections for the future development of the road transport system and the likely impacts on the safety of infants, children and young people in all areas of road use, and consider possible strategies for enhancing road safety for infants, children and young people, now and into the future. The papers presented at the conference addressed these general objectives. A key aspect of the conference was the presentation of the outcomes of a Youth Assembly, held in Geneva as part of the Global Road Safety Week. The papers presented at the conference allowed for consideration of an additional number of themes, particularly passenger protection for infants and children.
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