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The Children's Traffic Club in Scotland - Research Findings

DescriptionThis report assesses how the Traffic Club has affected parents/carers and children in terms of road safety behaviour and attitudes.
ISBN
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateOctober 28, 1999
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No 69An Evaluation of the Children's Traffic Club in Scotland 1999

Katie Bryan-Brown and Gordon Harland, Transport Research Laboratory
University of Glasgow

In November 1995 the Scottish Road Safety Campaign (SRSC) launched the Children's Traffic Club in Scotland (CTCS). The Traffic Club materials help parents and carers to teach pre-school children to be safe when out and about. The Scottish Road Safety Campaign commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) assisted by the British Institute of Traffic Education Research (BITER) to assess how the Traffic Club has affected parents/carers and children in terms of road safety behaviour and attitudes.

Main Findings

Membership of the Traffic Club

  • The Children's Traffic Club in Scotland is reaching 62% of eligible children (71% of children in higher income families and 53% of children in lower income families).
  • The main reasons given by parents and carers for not joining the Traffic Club were that they had not got around to it or they could not remember why. Only 5% gave a positive reason for not joining - that their child was safe enough.

Safety gains since the Traffic Club started in Scotland

  • More parents and carers have taught their child to hold hands when crossing the road.
  • More parents and carers have shown their child how to cross a road.
  • More parents and carers have taught their child road safety by going through books with them.
  • More children know that they need to think before crossing a road.
  • More parents and carers always get their child out of a car on the pavement side.
  • Parents and carers are more likely to use protected crossings, such as zebras or pelicans, if they exist on the child's route to school.
  • Among children who do go out in the dark, a higher proportion now wear conspicuous clothing of some type, and a higher proportion wear reflective clothing.

Traffic Clubs

The concept of a Traffic Club for pre-school children originated in Scandinavia. The aim of the clubs was to involve parents or carers (referred to as carers hereafter) in the teaching of road safety using indoor and outdoor exercises set out in a series of books. The programme was graded according to the age of the child and tried to encourage the children to understand and think about how to cross roads.

Following successful trials in Scandinavia, in 1981 the Transport Research Laboratory ran an investigation into the feasibility of running a UK traffic club. A list of road safety and road safety education objectives for children aged between 3 and 51/2 was compiled by a team of teachers and psychologists. The list was put into developmental order, and divided into five groups: the first group suitable for children aged 3 to 31/2; the second group suitable for children aged 31/2 to 4; and so on, with the fifth group for children aged between 5 and 51/2. The list was used to prepare five illustrated books. DBDA (Dawn Boyfield Design Associates) with support from CGU?plc (at that time General Accident plc) have adapted and developed these materials and promoted them throughout the UK.

In November 1995 the Scottish Road Safety Campaign launched the Children's Traffic Club in Scotland. This offered free membership to all three year olds in Scotland and used the DBDA materials. An invitation to join the Club is sent to all children in Scotland round about their third birthday by their local Health Board. Parents and carers wishing to receive the Traffic Club books register their child as a Club member by returning a Freepost reply card to the publisher. Upon receipt of this card, the publisher sends Book 1 and a membership certificate to the child. The remaining four books are then dispatched at six monthly intervals.

The research

The objectives of the research in Scotland were:

  • to measure the effect of the Traffic Club on knowledge, attitudes and reported behaviour of the target group and their carers
  • to assess the use made of the materials by Traffic Club members and their carers, and to investigate the interest level at each stage of the Club
  • to indicate the proportion, if any, of members who drop out or fail to be actively involved over the five stages of membership, and
  • to explore why some carers do not enrol their child, despite receiving an invitation to do so.

The research was undertaken in six stages, a baseline survey of children aged just under 3 and then five further surveys, at six monthly intervals, of children and carers about four to five months after each Traffic Club Book had been dispatched. The survey questionnaire was developed by TRL from the questionnaires used in previous evaluations of Traffic Clubs and drew on recent BITER experience of interviewing children. The surveys were administered to samples of children born in September and October 1992 (too old to be eligible for Club Membership - the control sample) and of children born between 1 November 1992 and 31 January 1993 (children just eligible for Membership - the experimental sample). 684 children were interviewed in the experimental sample at the end of Book 1 stage, whilst 277 were interviewed in the control group. By Book 5 stage, 543 in the experimental and 270 in the control sample were interviewed.

The interviews were undertaken at the children's homes and were in two parts, an interview with carers about road safety, road safety education, Traffic Club Membership and use of the materials; and a short interview with the child, in the presence of the carer, about road safety.

Membership and use

The system of sending an invitation to join the Club to all carers at about the time of the child's third birthday, together with the supporting publicity and other promotional activities of Road Safety Officers and Health Professionals, has led to a 62% take-up rate. This a higher rate than any observed in previous British evaluations.

The take-up does vary with socio-economic status: children in high income families are more likely to be registered as members than the children in low income. Nevertheless more than half of the lower socio-economic groups were still joining the Club.

There was nothing in the data on reasons for non-membership indicating that low income carers were positively averse to the Traffic Club. The most common reasons for non-membership were that the carer had not got round to it or could not remember why they had not registered their child.

The proportion of members actually using the books did not vary with socio-economic group: carers in low income families were no more and no less likely to use the books than carers in high income families.

Amongst carers of members, the proportion using the books declined from 74% for Book 1 to 18% for Book 5. A small part of this decline may be a consequence of lost contact as some families move, but the most likely explanation is loss of interest by carers. Further research is now looking at the reasons for this loss of interest. Early indications suggest that more frequent mailings will help reduce the likelihood of interest loss, along with more explicit instructions for carers on how to use the books.

The survey showed that the proportion of carers teaching road safety, whether Traffic Club members or not, peaked when the child was about 41/2 years old. This may be because some carers expect that, once their children start full time education, the schools will provide road safety education.

Child and carer behaviour

The evaluation found a number of statistically significant differences between the control and experimental samples. These are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Behaviours where the evaluation found significant differences between the experimental and control samples

Behaviour

% of

Experimental

Control

Behaviours where the experimental sample was safer

Carers who had taught their child to hold hands when crossing the road

97

95

Carers who had shown their child how to cross the road

97

95

Carers who had gone through a road safety book with the child

67

31

Children who said they should hold hands when crossing the road

37

33

Children who said they should think before crossing the road

12

7

Carers who said the child always gets out a vehicle on the pavement side

54

50

Carers who used zebra or pelican crossings, if they existed, on the child's route to school

81

50

Children do not go out at night

23

10

Children who wear conspicuous clothing when out at night

53

42

Children who wear reflective clothing when out at night

15

13

Behaviours where the control sample was safer

Carers who taught their child to take care at driveways

53

58

Children who could identify a motorcycle

94

96

Children who said they should look for cars before crossing a road

73

76

Carers who said their child always holds hands when walking along a residential street

50

56

Children in the control sample were two to three months older than children in the experimental sample. Although the age difference was small, because the children were developing quickly, it has had a significant effect on two of the differences shown. The proportion of children who said that, when crossing, they must hold hands, and who said they must look for cars, changed sufficiently with age to explain the higher proportion of experimental children saying 'hold hands' and the higher proportion of control children saying 'look for cars'.

'Health Warning'

The design of the experiment and statistical tests assume two distinct populations, an experimental population who have been exposed to a treatment (in this case the Children's Traffic Club) and a control population who have not been exposed. Measurements on the control population provide an offset to allow for interventions applied independently of the experimental treatment. Within the CTCS evaluation such independent interventions could be national road safety publicity, media campaigns about road safety and regional authority road safety programmes. Checking the effect of such interventions meant attempting to use a Scottish control population: other parts of Britain have their own national transport ministries, their own media and, of course, their own local government all with programmes that run independently of the road safety programmes in Scotland.

The Children's Traffic Club in Scotland was introduced by the SRSC as a national club for all Scottish children born in or after November 1992. The SRSC decided not to provide Club membership to children born before November 1992 even if their carers applied for membership. However, any carers who did apply were provided with other road safety materials appropriate to their child's age. In addition a Traffic Club nursery pack was made available to playgroups and nursery schools throughout Scotland and this would reach some children born before November 1992. On top of this, carers of Traffic Club members could show or lend the Club materials to friends whose children were too old to join. Thus to some unknown extent the CTCS evaluation control sample may have been contaminated by the Traffic Club and this will have acted to reduce differences between the control and experimental samples.

Comparison with previous evaluations

The comparison with data from a previous evaluation of a Children's Traffic Club in the Eastern Region of England1 suggests that the Scottish Club has been at least as effective, if not more, as the Traffic Club in the Eastern Region. The take-up rate in Scotland, 62%, was higher than the average for the Eastern Region experiment, 50%.

In both Traffic Clubs membership was originally canvassed using Health Board address lists. Take-up was very much lower in a London trial where the Club was promoted by advertising, mainly in public buildings.

Where the behavioural data can be compared directly there is no indication that the Scottish carers and children were any less safe than the comparable categories of carer and child in the Eastern Region experiment.

Most of the significant differences between the various groups were small in both the Scottish and the English Eastern Region evaluations. In the English evaluation it was possible to demonstrate that the operation of the Traffic Club was associated with a statistically significant reduction in injuries to small children coming into the road from behind a parked vehicle. Because of the problem of identifying an independent control sample, it will be difficult to demonstrate such casualty savings following the introduction of the Scottish Club. However, there is nothing in the behavioural and knowledge data reported here to suggest that Scotland is not experiencing a reduction in child casualties similar to the reduction observed in the Eastern Region of England.

1 'The Effectiveness of the General Accident Eastern Region Children's Traffic Club', Katie Bryan-Brown, Transport Research Laboratory, 1994

'An Evaluation of the Children's Traffic Club in Scotland', the research report summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £5.00. Cheques should be made payable to The Stationery Office and addressed to:

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or from the publications section of the Scottish Executive Website: www.scotland.gov.uk