CHARITIES say more needs to be done to make the county’s roads safer after an increase in the number of children being killed or seriously injured.

Figures from Public Health England and the Department for Transport show 159 under-16s either died or were badly hurt on Essex’s roads between 2016 and 2018.

This was higher than the two years previously, and above the national average where the number of accidents is mapped to the number of children.

Road safety charity Brake said it was a “tragedy” so many children are still hurt or killed on the roads.

A spokesman said: “Every child should have the right to be able to play out and walk or cycle to school in their community without fear of traffic and pollution.

“But many are unable to do so because of dangerous driving around schools and a lack of access to simple measures such as footpaths, cycle paths or safe places to cross.

“We need to see safer speeds, particularly around schools and on streets where children play, and greater investment in segregated cycle paths and footpaths to help keep children safe on our roads.”

Parents spoken to by Public Health England said the speed and volume of traffic were reasons they do not allow their children to walk or cycle, which it says is reducing opportunities for physical exercise.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it has “consistently called on the Government to increase its efforts to reduce pedestrian casualties involving children”.

Nick Lloyd, head of road safety for the charity, said: “Walking to school provides excellent exercise, which should be encouraged and allows parents or carers the opportunity to teach children valuable lifesaving road safety skills.

“There should also be a greater emphasis on schools providing pedestrian training in primary schools to prepare children as they move up to high school.”

A DfT spokeswoman said: “The death of any child on our roads is a tragedy and we express our deepest sympathies to the families who have sadly lost loved ones.

“We’ve empowered local authorities to help deliver road safety measures and we’re using new technology and research to educate children about the dangers on our roads.”