Three reasons why 20's Plenty is vital for Worthing's children

1. Safety

Every year, on average, 2 people are killed and about 260 injured on Worthing’s roads, around 30 of them seriously. A quarter of these are children and teenagers. In fact, on average, nationwide, one child in every class will be killed or injured on the road by the time they are 16 (Source: Road Safety Analysis). These are young lives, tragically and violently cut short, leaving parents, relatives and friends to live with their grief for the rest of their lives. Most of us think we are safe drivers, yet half of us speed on 30mph roads. We may be lucky and never have a collision, but a few miles an hour has a dramatic effect on how quickly you can stop. If a child makes a mistake and steps out 40 feet (12 metres) in front of your car then assuming you react quickly and hit the brakes in half a second:

• at 20mph you would just stop in time
• at 30mph you would hit them still doing 27mph – the same impact speed as dropping them out of a third storey window
• at 40mph you would hit them still doing 40mph – you wouldn’t even have had time to brake

If you hit someone at 30mph you are seven times more likely to kill them than at 20mph.

What is more, recent research has demonstrated that primary school children cannot accurately judge vehicle speeds above 20mph. 20mph speed limits not only give you a much better chance of stopping in time if something happens, but if you do hit someone you are far less likely to kill or seriously injure them.

West Sussex County Council has been funding School Safety Zones with 20mph limits, however there are three major problems with these:

a) 97% of the road collisions involving children in Worthing are not within the School Safety Zone areas – and even those that are may not happen during the 4 hours that the zone is active. (See the map of casualty locations for 2005-2010 here).

b) School Safety Zones (and Safe Routes to Schools) only cover a tiny fraction of a typical journey to school – if you add up all Worthing’s 21 School Safety Zones they cover just 2 miles of road!

c) They’re expensive – School Safety Zones work out over 30 times more expensive per mile than 20’s Plenty! And the 20mph limits in a school safety zone are ‘advisory’ only – they cannot be enforced.

20’s Plenty for Worthing wants to create an environment in which children in Worthing are safe walking and cycling for the whole of their journey to school and at all other times (for instance during school holidays) on all residential roads.

2. Health and freedom

Fortunately very few car journeys result in collisions, however every car journey we make impacts children’s lives in other ways. Many of us probably grew up being able to play in our streets. Children these days are rarely allowed to play on their street, let alone walk or cycle to their school or friend’s houses unaccompanied. Yet getting to know the other children and families on your street is one of the best ways of creating a strong local community. Learning to make independent journeys and take responsibility for one’s actions is also an essential part of growing up. In 1971, 80% of seven to eight year olds walked home from school on their own. By 1990 this figure had dropped to just 9%.

The most common reason parents give for restricting their children’s freedom in this way is fear of traffic danger. As a result we have what has been described as an obesity epidemic, with more than one in four of our children overweight.

Yet if we don’t bring up our children to get exercise through walking and cycling, then the likelihood is they’ll grow up without these healthy habits and may become one of the 85,000 people a year who die prematurely of diseases associated with lack of physical exercise such as obesity, heart disease and cancers.

When traffic speeds are 20mph the roads not only are safer for our children, they ‘feel safer’, encouraging more parents to allow their children to walk or cycle.

3. Fairness

Sadly the people most at risk on our roads are the poorest in our society. Children in the poorest wards are five times more likely to be killed on our roads than those in the richest. The difference is even starker when you compare parental backgrounds. Children of the long term unemployed and those who have never worked are 21-28 times more likely to be killed than those whose parents are managers or professionals.

Those on low incomes also suffer the worst effects of traffic as they often live on the busiest roads and in the most congested areas. As a result they suffer the highest levels of air pollution – causing respiratory problems, aggravating heart disease and impairing children’s lung development.

Even mental health is affected by traffic – children from the poorest neighbourhoods have the lowest availability of green spaces which are known to be beneficial to mental health, and the greatest difficulty accessing them due to busy roads. Studies have also shown that those living on the busiest roads have the least numbers of friends and acquaintances amongst their neighbours as traffic restricts the amount people socialise on the street.