Younger children should be accompanied by a parent if they are walking to school, says a road safety and support association.

Caroline Perry, director of Brake, said it recommends adults accompany children up until they are 8.

While there isn't a hard and fast rule, and it comes down to parents and caregivers to determine what is safe for their child, she recommended they plan safe routes.

"Even when they are older and may start to travel with older children or independently, it's really important to consider the safety of the routes in your area and to plan a safe route."


A Coroner's report has sparked debate after suggesting young children shouldn't be allowed to walk to school without an adult.

The report, released this morning, looked into the death of 6-year-old Carla Neems - who was killed by a recycling truck as she scootered home from school in Gisborne on May 2, 2017.

Coroner Tim Scott ruled that Carla should have been accompanied by an adult on her journey home - instead of her elder siblings or friends.

But Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon has expressed his disbelief in the ruling, and explained that hundreds of children in the community walk to school unattended.

"I don't think a lot of parents actually know that they have to supervise their children until a certain age. It's been a long held tradition and for tens of years - ever since I was going to school - that we all walk to school," he said.

"As long as the kid is safe, they know the road rules, and to cross at the pedestrian crossing and stay on the footpath.

"I don't even mind children riding their scooters and bicycles on the footpath, as it's actually safer than on the road," he said.

Foon said it would be a big wake-up call for families if an accompanied walking age became set in law.

Emergency services at the scene of the accident. Photo / Supplied
Emergency services at the scene of the accident. Photo / Supplied

"It's a revelation for all of us, but I still encourage children to walk to school safely - and if they have to be supervised then that is the rules," he said.

"I think it would be quite an imposition for parents once they realise what the rules are. That's going to be a nuisance because then they will probably be using their cars and congesting the roads, and not being very kind on climate change."

Foon, who has been mayor since 2001, said Carla's death was tragic and made the community more aware.

"It made council more aware as well in terms of its roles and responsibilities ensuring the contractor does their job safely."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins also believed parents should have the right to decide whether their children walked to school.

"My sympathies go out to Carla's parents during this difficult time," he said.


"Parents, schools and their local communities are best placed to determine how to keep kids safe on their journey to and from school."

Six-year-old Carla Neems died as a result of the collision outside her family's home. Photo / Givealittle
Six-year-old Carla Neems died as a result of the collision outside her family's home. Photo / Givealittle

Perry said she wouldn't recommend children under the age of 8 walk unaccompanied due to their ability to assess risk and be aware of their own safety.

"It does come down to individual parents, carers and families looking at what is safe for their child, on the route that they've got, the distance they have to go to get to where it is they are going, and who else is going with them."

She said we also need to look at the wider issue of the safety of our communities.

"We want children to be out and about walking, cycling and scooting and to be more active - so they are not having to be dropped off everywhere in a car - because that is better for their health and for the environment.

"That means we need slow speeds around schools and neighbourhoods, and have good footpaths, cycleways and safe crossing points."