Adoption of behavioural roadside training programme improves children’s road crossing skills.
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Strathclyde
Unit of AssessmentPsychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Summary of the impact
In a series of training studies on children between the ages of 5 and 12
years, a research team at the Department of Psychology successfully
demonstrated that substantial improvements in roadside decision-making and
behaviour can be achieved in children as young as 5 years. Based on their
findings, the team developed and evaluated a training intervention
(Kerbcraft) aimed at improving children's pedestrian skills through
practical roadside activities which was formally adopted by the UK
government. Since 2008, the majority of 5-7 year old children in the UK
have received formal pedestrian skills training using Kerbcraft either in
its full or adapted form. Kerbcraft now plays a key role in the UK
Government's road safety strategy and has been cited as an example of best
practice by the World Health Organisation and safety agencies across
Europe, the US, Australia and in developing countries such as Ethiopia and
Context: Road traffic accidents are one of the 10 leading causes
of death and disability worldwide, resulting in a million deaths and 10
million serious injuries annually. Child pedestrians are especially
vulnerable with an injury rate four times that of adults in spite of much
lower exposure to traffic. In the early 1990s, Professor James Thomson
assembled a research team to examine children's ability to make safe
decisions about pedestrian behaviour. The team were highly critical of
traditional road safety education, which cast the problem in terms of
children's limited knowledge about traffic and traffic rules, with
interventions typically aimed at increasing such knowledge. These
interventions worked in the sense that they improved children's ability to
give `correct' verbal responses to questions posed by adults. They did
not, however, give rise to measurable improvements in children's actual
behaviour at the roadside. At the point at which the team entered the
field, there was a widespread malaise over the limitations of road safety
education and even scepticism as to whether education had anything
significant to offer relative to other approaches aimed at reducing
children's vulnerability, such as traffic calming. Research on road safety
education had reached a major impasse .
- The Strathclyde group's distinctive contribution to this impasse was
to re-conceptualize pedestrian competence in terms of skill rather than
knowledge per se. According to this view, safe interaction with
traffic requires deployment of a range of fundamental perceptuo-motor
and cognitive skills [1, 2, 4, 5]. Drawing on theories of learning and
development, they argued that the acquisition of such skills is best
promoted through practical training in meaningful contexts (the roadside
or an appropriate analogue), rather than by means of verbal learning in
- Through a series of grants from the Department for Transport they
extended their research on the `natural' development of pedestrian
skills in children by developing roadside training programmes based on
their findings [1-6]. The training studies demonstrated substantial
improvements in the roadside decision-making and behaviour of children
as young as 5 years, making them behave like older, more experienced
pedestrians. Further, they demonstrated that these improvements were
robust, with little decrement in performance several months after
training [3-5] and, in some cases, with continuing
improvements . Comparable improvements have rarely, if ever, been
reported following alternative, non-behavioural training methods.
- Professor Thomson's team also explored the relationship between
procedural and conceptual aspects of learning in pedestrian skill
acquisition, stressing the importance of the latter in promoting
generalization, transfer of learning and the avoidance of rote learning
styles. Inspired by their research on interactive learning, they
endorsed peer collaborative learning approaches in which children learn
through joint problem solving in groups, with adults playing only a
facilitatory role in the process. They also examined the types of
dialogue between adults and children that promote or inhibit learning
and incorporated the findings into their training methods [1,4,6].
Key researchers: All the research and translational work was
carried out by staff in the Department of Psychology at the University
of Strathclyde. Professor James Thomson (1978- present), Professor Hugh
Foot (1990-2007), Dr Andrew Tolmie (1990-2006).
References to the research
1. Thomson, J.A., Tolmie, A.K., Foot, H.C. & McLaren, B. (1996) Child
Development and the Aims of Road Safety Education. Road Safety Research
Report No. 1. London: H.M.S.O.
2. Thomson, J.A. (1997) Developing safe route planning strategies in
young child pedestrians. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 18,
3. Thomson, J.A., Ampofo-Boateng, K., Lee, D.N., Grieve, R., Pitcairn, T.
& Demetre, J.D. (1998). The effectiveness of parents in promoting the
development of road crossing skills in young children. British Journal of
Educational Psychology, 68(4), 475-491.
4. Thomson, J.A., Tolmie, A.K., Foot, H.C., Sarvary, P.A., Whelan, K.M.
and Morrison, S. (2005). Influence of virtual reality training on the
roadside crossing judgements of child pedestrians. Journal of Experimental
Psychology: Applied, 11(3), 175-186.
5. Foot, H.C., Thomson, J.A., Tolmie, A.K., Whelan, K.M., Morrison, S.
and Sarvary, P. (2006). Children's understanding of drivers' intentions.
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 24, 681-700.
6. Tolmie, A.K., Thomson, J.A., Foot, H.C., Whelan, K.M., McLaren, B.
& Morrison, S. (2005). The effects of adult guidance and peer
discussion on the development of children's representations. British
Journal of Psychology, 96, 181-204.
Notes on quality: Reference 1 is a peer-reviewed government report
commissioned to make recommendations on the research required as a
precursor to the development of effective pedestrian training resources
for children. On the basis of its recommendations the government
established the Child Development Research Programme with dedicated
funding to undertake the recommended research, funding numerous projects
over the subsequent 15 years. The other references are peer-reviewed
empirical papers published in leading journals. The research has been
supported by the following grants:
• Thomson, J.A. (1993-1995) Department for Transport, Strathclyde
Regional Council: to develop and evaluate a pedestrian skills training
programme for young children, £175,406.
• Thomson, J.A., Tolmie, A.K., Foot, H.C. (1995-1997) Department for
Transport: a study of visual search and attention in the context of
pedestrian behaviour, £111,436.
• Thomson, J.A., Tolmie, A.K., Foot, H.C. ESRC: adult guidance versus
peer collaboration in the training of pedestrian skills in young children,
• Tolmie, A.K., Thomson, J.A, Foot, H.C. (1998-2000) Department for
Transport: development and evaluation of a virtual reality pedestrian
training programme for children aged 5-10 years, £181,842.
• Tolmie, A.K., Thomson, J.A., Foot, H.C. (2000-2002) Department for
Transport: development and evaluation of a virtual reality resource for
training children in the safe use of designated pedestrian crossings,
• Thomson, J.A., Tolmie, H.C., Foot, H.C., and O'Connor, R.K. (2002-2005)
Department for Transport: an investigation of the role of skills,
attitudes, and perceived behavioural control in the pedestrian
decision-making of adolescents aged 11-15 years, £271,492.
Details of the impact
Process from research to impact: The research described in Section
2 led the group to develop the Kerbcraft resource which is
designed to teach 5-7 year old children three skills: recognising safe
versus dangerous roadside locations; crossing safely between parked cars;
and crossing safely near junctions. They later developed Crossroads,
a virtual reality resource aimed at developing more advanced skills in
8-12 year olds (visual search, visual timing skills, reading drivers'
intentions, and using designated crossings). Kerbcraft was formally
launched by the government in 2001 as the National Child Pedestrian
Training Scheme across the UK with £9 million of dedicated funding and ran
until 2008 when local authorities were expected to mainline the scheme.
The National Scheme was itself independently evaluated by the Department
for Transport who subsequently funded production of a revised manual,
additional support materials and training video which were launched in
2008. Crossroads was adopted as a national resource aimed at older
children who had already completed Kerbcraft in 2005.
Description of impact: This case study is based on the impact of
the revised training scheme launched in 2008. The Strathclyde group's work
has stimulated benefits in two ways: firstly through nationwide
implementation of the Kerbcraft training scheme across the UK; and
secondly by informing professional practice and government policy in a
number of countries across the world on the critical role of practical
roadside training and interactive learning methods in child pedestrian
Adoption of Kerbcraft in UK road safety education: In 2008, there
were 138 Kerbcraft schemes running across 98 local education authorities
in England, Scotland and Wales. In total, 1,418 schools ran Kerbcraft and
95,353 children were trained (Source A). Since then the use of Kerbcraft
in its original or modified form has continued to be used across the UK.
For example, a report to the Welsh Government showed that, in 2009, 23
Kerbcraft schemes were running across 377 schools in Wales and 10,635
children were trained in that year alone by 1076 volunteers and the Welsh
Government's 2012 draft Road Safety Delivery Plan concludes "Now in its
fifth year, MVA Consultancy's review of Kerbcraft shows a continuing
expansion of the scheme throughout Wales. The scheme now involves more
children and more schools than in any previous year" (Source
B). In 2011, an independent evaluation of child pedestrian training
throughout the UK was carried out by the University of Southampton (Source
C).They surveyed 101 local education authorities and found that 80% were
offering the Kerbcraft programme either in its original or modified form.
Adoption of Kerbcraft in developing countries: Beyond the
developed world, Kerbcraft is currently being piloted in Bangladesh, which
suffers one of the world's highest rates of road traffic injuries. The
Bangladesh Centre for Injury Prevention and Research has translated the
Kerbcraft resources into Bengali and produced a training video adapted to
local needs. If the pilot scheme is successful, the aim is to introduce
the programme nationwide (Source D). In 2010, the Kerbcraft scheme was
also introduced in Ethiopia with 992 children receiving training that year
Kerbcraft forms part of UK government's policy and child road safety
strategy: At the level of policy, the UK Department for Transport's
2011 Strategic Framework for Road Safety states that "the Kerbcraft scheme
remains the basis for children's practical road safety training. It is a
roadside pedestrian training scheme which has been proven to deliver a
lasting improvement in road crossing skills. We encourage Local
Authorities to adopt Kerbcraft or similar child pedestrian training
schemes, rather than anything that is watered down or less effective and
target it on high risk areas and groups" (Source F p.50). The recent House
of Commons Transport Committee Report (Ending the Scandal of
Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010) welcomed the use and support
of Kerbcraft (p. 25) and noted that "while both Kerbcraft and Bikeability
aim to improve children's road user skills, they may have benefits in
later life if they go on to learn to drive" (p.9). In a report on health
strategy to the Department of Health, the Health Protection Agency also
recommends "UK-wide implementation of successful interventions to include
practical road safety programmes, such as Kerbcraft" (Source G p23).
Similarly, a report to the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment
(2011) on child road safety recommends that the NI government should
"Enhance practical child pedestrian safety training in line with the
`Kerbcraft' scheme as operated in England, Scotland and Wales and to
include parents in its delivery..... The Department for Transport's
evaluation of this scheme found far reaching benefits within the
community" (Source H p.30). The NI Road Safety Strategy to 2020 endorses
this, saying "we will continue to provide the.... Practical Child
Pedestrian Scheme and other current initiatives and support those schools
wishing to participate" (p60). Finally, the Welsh Government's draft Road
Safety Delivery Plan (2012) reiterates its continuing support of Kerbcraft
as part of its road safety strategy and commits itself to funding
Kerbcraft as part of its strategy to 2020.
Influence on international road safety education: In the USA, the
Child Pedestrian Safety Curriculum issued by the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration in 2011 (Source I) refers extensively to
the Strathclyde group's research. The guidelines state that "Teachers
should seek to engage students in teacher discussion and modeling by
asking questions and prompting dialogue. Thus, children will incorporate
these basic principles into their own behaviors". "Teachers should also
allow children to use social interactions with their peers to further
promote positive behavior. The option of using older students as models
for younger children is one such way to show significant increases in safe
behaviors. Using older children as models and incorporating student-
peer-adult discussion on a consistent basis are encouraged throughout the
program" (p.2). They quote numerous papers by the Strathclyde group in
support of these recommendations. In Australia, the Department of
Education in Western Australia commissioned a study on the evidence base
for road safety practice and issued 16 Principles for School Road Safety
Education. Six of the principles are based on the Strathclyde group's work
and these now form part of the Road Safety Education Plan for Western
Australian Schools and Communities 2011-13 (Source J).
Influence on thinking of international agencies: Thomson et al.'s
work has also been cited by key world and European agencies. The World
Health Organisation/Unicef World Report on Child Injury Prevention (Source
K) states "Current research on road safety education suggests that an
approach that stresses behaviour, focusing on the development of practical
skills, is more likely to be effective for younger children. Children
learn best through methods that develop problem-solving and
decision-making skills". It then cites Kerbcraft as an effective
educational intervention that achieves these aims (p 48). Kerbcraft also
features as a case study in the European Child Safety Alliance's Child
Safety Good Practice Guide (Source L). This document states that the
roadside training undertaken in Kerbcraft "is an essential ingredient of
pedestrian skills training".
Since 2008, the majority of 5-7 year old children in the UK have received
formal pedestrian skills training using Kerbcraft either in its full or
adapted form and the evidence is that this will continue. The work of the
Strathclyde team has impacted on society by changing government policy
within and beyond the UK, changing professional practice, and giving
hundreds of thousands of children training that demonstrably improves
their roadside decision making and behaviour.
Sources to corroborate the impact
A. Evaluation of the National Network of Child Pedestrian Training Pilot
Projects: Department for Transport, Road Safety Research Report No. 82,
B. Welsh Government (2012). Draft road safety delivery plan
C. Hammond, J. Cherrett, T, Waterson, B. (2011) An evaluation of child
pedestrian training in the UK.
D. Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh
E. Where there's no green man: child road-safety education in Ethiopia
F. Department for Transport Strategic Framework for Road Safety Policy
G. A children's environment and health strategy for the UK: Health
Protection Agency, 2009.
H. Northern Ireland Child Road Safety and Poverty Research Project
I. US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Child Pedestrian
J. Road Safety Education Plan for Western Australian Schools and
K. WHO, Unicef: World Report on Child Injury Prevention, 2008
L. European Child Safety Alliance: Child Safety Good Practice Guide