Children's progress 'stunted by traffic'

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INCREASED growth in traffic has so restricted children's mobility that it is stunting both their physical and psychological development, according to a report published today, writes Christian Wolmar.

It paints a sad picture of children being trapped indoors or having to spend all their time with adults because the urban environment has become so dangerous as a result of the unrestrained growth in traffic.

Children now have to be escorted to and from school for much more of their childhood than before. This is causing strain both for them and their parents. The restriction in mobility is very sharp. In 1971, 80 per cent of 7- and 8-year-olds were allowed to go to school on their own and now only 9 per cent do.

The report's authors argue that the decline in child road deaths over that time is not a result of the success of road safety measures, but due to the decline in children's freedom and independence which means they are no longer allowed to roam the streets.

Mayer Hillman, its editor, said: 'Because they cannot go out alone, they do not learn the practical skills they need for life. They don't have a chance of developing a sense of adventure by going out and being naughty, which is an important way of learning. Their social and emotional development is being retarded.'

Children, Transport and the Quality of Life, edited by Mayer Hillman, Policy Studies Institute; pounds 10.