Parents and schools are being urged to remind their children about road safety as the winter months are most prevalent when it comes to pedestrian road accidents.
Road Safety GB North East (RSGB NE) has enlisted the support of a new mascot, Look Out Leo, to help educate young people about the dangers of the road, particularly during the winter months when the nights are darker and the weather is poorer.
Schools can go to the RSGB NE website to download materials to display on walls and for children to take home, which gives advice about staying safe as pedestrians, cyclists, and car passengers.
In the winter months, children typically account for a third of all pedestrian road casualties.
Road Safety GB North East (RSGB NE) is appealing for all road-users to slow down and to look out for each other, particularly during poor weather conditions and when the light fades.
Parents and teachers are urged to encourage children to use pedestrian crossings wherever possible, not to take chances near roads, and to wear bright or reflective clothing in order to be seen. If children are travelling in vehicles they must be fastened securely into the most appropriate seat.
Meanwhile, drivers are urged to cut their speed around schools, playgrounds and shopping centres, to always park in a safe area, and to be prepared for youngsters dashing out.
Paul Watson, Chairman of Road Safety GB North East, said boys aged 11 and 12 were the most vulnerable group of child pedestrian casualties. He said 78 percent of children that are knocked down on the region’s roads were simply not looking.
He said: “As a region, we are doing better at keeping children safe on the roads, but there is still room for improvement.
“A large proportion of children that are knocked over are trying to cross the road away from a pedestrian crossing, and more than a quarter are hit by vehicles whilst they are crossing near to parked cars. Those collisions could easily be avoided with more thought about road safety.
“What surprises me is that 4% of children who were injured whilst travelling in vehicles were not wearing seatbelts. That is a higher rate than the number of adults who were not wearing seatbelts. That should never happen. All drivers are responsible for ensuring children in their car are properly strapped in before setting off. It could save a life.”
Between 2012 and 2016 there were 3,888 children, aged up to 16, injured in road collisions in the North East. Eight were killed and 535 were seriously injured.
Child casualties in general tend to increase through the summer months, however, the winter months are highest for accidents involving child pedestrians.
Louise Heathfield, Acting Headteacher of Monkton Junior School in South Shields, said, like most schools, they have had issues with vehicles parking outside their school.
“Delivering important messages about road safety is a priority for us, especially around this time of year as the nights are darker,” said Louise.
“We encourage our pupils to take care and consider the messages they hear in school. We have high volumes of traffic pass our school, especially at the start and end of the school day – and the increased number of parked cars also poses a risk. We welcome any support RSGB NE can provide in helping us to communicate these messages.”
Julie Inkster, Road Safety Officer at South Tyneside Council, said she regularly went into schools to talk to young people about staying safe on the roads.
She said: “In order to keep young people safe, we need to educate children about the dangers of the road, but drivers also need to do their part by slowing down and making sure that any children in their car are strapped in properly.
“If you are driving close to a school or playground, there is a higher risk of a child running out, so take care. If you need to park close to a school, pay attention to road markings and only park where it’s safe to do so. They are simple things, but so many people choose to ignore basic safety advice.”
Sheena Sinclair, Headteacher of St Paul’s Primary School in Wolviston, Billingham, said, like most schools, they have had issues with vehicles parking outside their school.
She said: “The safety of our children is always our first and foremost priority. It’s a collective responsibility we share with parents and carers to ensure that children are well educated about road safety, so they grow up into citizens who are safe and considerate.
“Teaching children about road safety is therefore essential and we welcome any support that can be provided by RSGB NE to share this message. All adults should be very aware that we lead by example. Our children deserve the best of examples and the best of opportunities to learn how to be safe.”