Letter: How traffic limits children's freedom

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Sir: We agree with David Pearce (8 December) that the comparisons made by the road lobby between revenue from motoring taxes and expenditure on roads omit significant social costs. We are, however, doubtful that most of these costs can be assigned a meaningful cash value.

In a recent Policy Studies Institute report (One False Move), we found that one of these costs was a loss of children's freedom; in 1971, 80 per cent of seven- and eight- year-old children got to school unaccompanied by an adult. By 1990 this figure had dropped to 9 per cent, and the reason given by most parents for restricting their children's freedom was fear of traffic. The process of development is one in which children learn to cope independently of adult supervision. As a direct result of increased traffic, children are losing independence at a crucial stage in their development and, as another PSI report shows (Children, Transport and the Quality of Life), this loss is likely to have important adverse consequences for their physical, social and emotional development.

It is also likely to have undesirable effects on the society of which they later become adult members. Beyond this it constitutes a gross infringement of children's rights. Beside these costs, the costs and benefits of motoring that economists can measure pale into insignificance.

Yours sincerely,



University College

London, WC1

13 December