UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering


Road Safety and Me: Special Educational Needs and Road Safety

Children diagnosed with special educational needs (SEN) have greater risk of road traffic injury. Understanding of this group’s vulnerability on the roads, and specific safety strategies, is needed.

Woman and child walking down a New York side street

30 July 2019

Project Overview 

Parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) report that one of their main concerns is their children’s road safety. According to the Department for Education, around 14% of children in the UK have SEN. Children diagnosed with conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or Cognition and Learning Impairments have been found to be at a greater risk of road traffic injury. Greater attention needs to be directed toward understanding the vulnerability of children with SEN on the roads, and towards identifying strategies that may help address the challenges they face in learning road safety skills.



  • October 2018 - January 2021. 


  • Dr Sarah O’Toole and Professor Nicola Christie received funding from the Department for Transport for this project.



  • To identify the facilitators and barriers to road safety education experienced by children with SEN, their parents, and service providers.

  • To strengthen the evidence base of effective road safety education of children with SEN between 7 and 18 years of age.

  • To provide a ‘voice’ to children with SEN to understand the challenges they face in navigating the traffic environment in order that resources/initiatives can be developed to better meet their needs and to promote their independent mobility.

Why undertake this research?

As well as being important in its own right, there are wider implications of addressing the safety of children with SEN. Lack of safety is a major barrier to independent mobility and participation in society, and therefore further excludes these young people.


Children with SEN will be given portable cameras to film journeys they make in order to explore the impact of individual and environmental factors on their road safety. The project will also evaluate four road safety education initiatives targeting children with SEN in order to identify examples of best practice in tailoring road safety education to SEN.

Resources will be developed based on results from the filming and evaluations and with the input of children with SEN, their caregivers, and service providers. This will allow for road safety resources to be used that more specifically target the needs of this group.