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Streets ahead on safety: young people's participation in decision-making to address the European road injury ‘epidemic’

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This paper reports on Birmingham City Council's Streets Ahead on Safety project which aims to improve road safety and quality of life in an area of multiple deprivation where 87 000 people from largely Asian, immigrant backgrounds live. A third of residents are under 16 years old and 58% self-define their religion as Muslim. The area has a poor traffic accident record leading to high levels of killed or seriously injured children. Child accidental injury in Europe is reaching ‘epidemic’ proportions, requiring innovative, ameliorative approaches to redress. Existing UK school-based road safety initiatives rarely extend beyond the ‘tokenistic’, but this project endeavoured to encourage a highway authority, engineers and road safety officers to provide local young people with opportunities to participate in decision-making in the belief that the active engagement of young service users would lead to more effective and sustainable solutions to accident prevention. Embracing the city's ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), this project promoted young people's participation in decision-making around engineering plans for their local community. The project included 405 young people aged 9–11 years who conducted environmental audits, interactive road safety awareness and citizenship training, and engaged as decision-makers. Successful outcomes include increased knowledge of road and community safety issues, and the establishment of young people as stakeholders in the development of their own safety and active engagement with service providers in the development of engineering proposals. This paper highlights the potential dynamics of participation and the dilemmas it poses for relationships between service users and providers, and outlines some of the barriers confronted by young people in learning to be active participants.
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Keywords: child KSI; participation; road safety; young people

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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