Safer urban mobility

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The AXA Foundation for Prevention has been working hard for five decades to make all modes of urban transport safer for everyone. We spoke to its Chairman Michael Pfäffli about the biggest hazards children face on the move, a road safety app, and a new law intended to improve road safety.

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    Michael Pfäffli

    Michael Pfäffli is a prevention expert at AXA and Chairman of the AXA Foundation for Prevention. He is very passionate about making our roads safer for everyone who uses them.

Michael Pfäffli, what is the best way to raise children's awareness of the dangers that come with being out on the road?

The most important thing is to go out with your child and show him or her all the situations that can occur. Demonstrate the right way to behave, and let the child practice. Especially before children start to go out on their own, for example to get to kindergarten or school, they should do several trial runs with their parents and get to know where the dangers are.

There are fun ways to teach them good road manners too. The AXA Foundation for Prevention's mascot Max the Badger, for instance, has a friendly and age-appropriate approach to showing them what to do. Teachers can find Max's ideas and downloadable teaching materials on the Foundation's website. There's also a pack for parents with tips on how to supervise and support their children. Naturally, Max also has his own app for iOS and Android that teaches children the right way to behave in potentially hazardous situations on a virtual journey to school. Some 40% of accidents involving children happen on the way to or from school.

What are the biggest dangers for children on our roads?

Children have a different relationship with mobility than adults. They spend more time getting about on foot, by bike or on scooters, so they're exposed to different risks. On top of that, their cognitive abilities aren't yet fully developed, meaning that they pay less attention and can't always assess traffic situations correctly. One example of this is that children can't gauge how fast a car is traveling or whether it has enough time to stop. This is why most accidents involving children on bikes are caused by the child, which makes it all the more important to teach them about road safety. That's precisely what our prevention efforts are all about.

What exactly is the Foundation doing to improve road safety?

One of our priorities is child socialization in the context of road safety. Traveling to and from school is especially important because that's when a lot of accidents involving children happen. Children need to learn and practice the right way to behave in various situations in a way that's enjoyable for them. In Max the Badger, we've created a character that appeals to them to help them learn about road safety. We also support a range of research projects developing new approaches to making our roads less hazardous. It's important for these projects to have substance and be practically oriented so that they can help to improve road safety in the foreseeable future.

Children up to twelve years of age have been allowed to ride their bikes on the sidewalk since 2021. What benefits has the new law brought?

The roads have become safer for everyone who uses them over the past few years. There has been a particularly sharp fall in the number of serious accidents involving children, from 1,700 in 1980 to just 10% of that figure today. That said, children are still among the most at risk on our roads. The Federal Council's decision to change the law is a step in the right direction. Letting children ride on the sidewalk makes them feel safer than they would on the road. What isn't clear just yet is whether it's genuinely having a positive effect on road safety.

Why is that?

You have to bear in mind that about 10% of serious bike accidents are collisions with pedestrians, not cars, and this proportion could well increase with more children riding on the sidewalk. It's clear that a law on its own won't prevent children from having accidents. It remains vitally important to make children aware of the hazards they face on the road and teach them how to behave from a very young age.

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