Child deaths from road traffic accidents

May 2013

Road accidents account for a large number of deaths and injuries each year in Great Britain. Figures published by the Department for Transport show that in 2011, 2,412 children under the age of 16 were killed or seriously injured on the roads.

This resource is designed to give you an overview of the number of children killed or seriously injured on the roads each year, and which types of road user are most at risk (eg cyclists, pedestrians, etc). At the end of the article you can view more information on our sources, and follow links to get more in-depth information on road safety statistics.

Why separate road casualties from other kinds of accidents?

Road accidents account for a third of accidental deaths among 0-14 year olds and over half of accidental deaths for 5-14 year olds. They are so numerous that they can often swamp the figures from other accidents and make it difficult to discern which other accident types have the largest impact on children and young people. Separating them can make it easier to examine other causes of childhood death and injury. It also allows us to break down the numbers of road casualties by type – of the children injured, how many were pedestrians? How many cyclists?

Road casualties are also slightly different from other types of accident because of the way that responsibility for them is assigned. Roads are a heavily controlled environment, and road safety is one of the few areas where there are dedicated prevention staff. Not only do all local authorities have a dedicated road safety officer or road safety team, there are also clear guidelines about where the responsibility for road accidents lies within the government.

Below is an attempt to present the available Department for Transport data so you can see the most common types of road casualty, and the number of children and young people killed or seriously injured annually.

Ages and areas

The Department for Transport defines ‘child’ as anyone under 16, whereas other areas, such as health and the Office for National Statistics, use five-year age brackets to categorise children and young people: 0-4, 5-9, 10-14, 14-19.

The Department for Transport also looks at figures which cover the whole of Great Britain, rather than just England.

To avoid confusion we have made it explicit in each example what age range we are referring to and whether the data covers casualties across the whole of Great Britain or just in England.

Which types of road accidents cause the most deaths and serious injuries?

Children are most at risk of being killed or seriously injured on the roads when they are on foot. In 2011, pedestrians made up more than half of the children killed in road accidents and two-thirds of those seriously injured.

The chart below shows the number of children and young people killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads as pedestrians, cyclists and car passengers, for 2000-11.

Figure 1

Children killed and seriously injured on Britain's roads, 2000-11

How many children are killed in road accidents?

The table below shows the number of deaths for children under 16 years for each type of road accident along with the number of serious and slight injuries for Great Britain in 2011. Serious injuries include fractures, internal injuries, burns and severe cuts. Slight injuries include bruising, whiplash and slight shock.

Table 1: Deaths and injuries by accident type for under 16s in Great Britain, 2011

Serious injury Slight injury
Total Deaths as % of total
Pedestrians 0-15 years
33 1,569 6,205 7,807
Pedal cyclists 0-15 years 6
392 2,483 2,881 0.21
Car occupants
0-15 years
315 7,235 7,571 0.28
All road users 0-15 years 60 2,352 17,062 19,474


Are roads becoming safer in England?

As figure 1 above illustrates, the number of children killed and seriously injured on the roads each year has been falling in recent years.

Department for Transport data shows that the number of deaths and serious injuries in 2011 was 21% lower than the average for 2005-09. Although this change is extremely positive, there is still work to be done to prevent children and young people from dying on the roads. Road accidents remain the leading cause of accidental death for children and they can cause life-changing injuries including loss of limbs, spinal injuries and head injuries.

In 2011, 2,412 children aged 0-15 years were killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads – that’s an average of 7 children every day. There were 60 child fatalities in road accidents in 2011. Although this figure is 53% lower than the average for 2005-09, it is 9% higher than the 2010 figure.


The statistics used to compile this article are taken from Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: annual report 2011.

Figure 1 is based on table RAS30062: Reported children killed or seriously injured by road user type: GB 1979-2011.

Table 1 is based on table RAS30002: Reported casualties by road user type, age and severity, Great Britain, 2011.

Our data and statistics tool will help you to find more road safety data to help you in your work.

Related articles

  • Road safety topic briefing: explains the key issues relating to road safety for senior practitioners and policymakers working in child accident prevention.
  • The costs of road accidents: an overview of the finanical and emotional costs of road accidents among children and young people.
Updated March 2014