The minister said: 'It is extremely important that children learn about traffic dangers from a very early age. In the last 20 years, the number of child pedestrians killed or seriously injured has more than halved, yet the death rate in Scotland is almost double that for Great Britain as a whole. This is a shocking statistic and demonstrates the need for effective measures to protect children of every age.'
The minister was speaking today at St Francis Primary School, Niddrie, Edinburgh, where she met with school pupils and teachers who have taken part in the scheme.
Research published in 1999 showed that although the Club was having a positive effect on many children and their parents, the uptake of the scheme was significantly lower in less well off groups. Changes have subsequently been made to improve the overall access to the education programmes.
The aims of the relaunched children's traffic club in Scotland (CTCS) include:
Ensuring every three year old in Scotland has access to road safety education packs
To provide support packs for every health visitor in Scotland to help promote the CTCS and encourage parental involvement.
To encourage awareness raising initiatives from health boards and health promotion workers to ensure a multi agency approach to improving access to road safety education.
The CTCS was launched in 1995 and has played a vital role in improving young childrens' safety skills and knowledge before they start school. Every three year old in Scotland is invited to become a member of the club and receives a free education pack for their parents and carers, as well as stickers, competitions and activities.
The minister said: 'Research last year showed that children from lower income groups were four times as likely to be killed on roads in Scotland than those from well off families.
'It is vital that every parent or carer knows this education is available. We have studied the success of the Club and we have made changes to make it even better.
'I believe the new format of the traffic club materials will ensure that the Club continues to be a successful and fun way to teach pre-school children about road safety, making an important contribution to improving the safety of children throughout the country.'
The new improvements were backed by minister for social justice Jackie Baillie. She said: 'The greater risk of children from poorer backgrounds dying on our roads is a stark reminder to everyone why we must maintain our commitment to social justice and ensure that every child has the best possible start to life.
'I am encouraged by the steps the children's traffic club has taken to ensure its materials are made more widely available and I hope they go some way to reducing the number of accidents on our streets.'
1. The children's traffic club in Scotland was launched by the Scottish Road Safety Campaign in 1995. It is funded by the Scottish executive. Free membership is offered to all three year olds in Scotland.
2. 'Research on Road Accidents and Children Living in Disadvantaged Areas' was published in 2000 and commissioned by the Scottish executive. This found that child pedestrians from disadvantaged areas are 4 times more likely to be killed as children from the highest socio-economic group. Their injuries are also likely to be more severe.
3. In 1999, there were 430 fatal and serious child pedestrian casualties, representing 27% of the total number of all casualties (1617). There were 17 fatal injuries and 413 serious injuries, both figures down on the previous year.