Let’s make roads even safer for youngsters...

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Sydul Islam had crossed the road outside his school in Portsmouth many times without incident. But one summer’s morning, he stepped off the pavement and was hit by a car.

The eight-year-old ended up trapped beneath the vehicle, but was saved thanks to the quick thinking of local tyre shop owner Jason Clark, who used a jack to enable Sydul to be freed.

SAFETY FIRST Sydul Islam with headteacher Simon Cattermole.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (114154-2)

SAFETY FIRST Sydul Islam with headteacher Simon Cattermole. Picture: Paul Jacobs (114154-2)

After spending some time in hospital, Sydul made a full recovery.

Now the Stamshaw Junior School pupil is being used by the city council’s road safety team as the face of its new THINK! Tales Of The Road campaign.

Run by the Department of Transport, it aims to reduce the number of accidental road deaths and injuries amongst children. The south east region is a major cause of concern, with 980 children being injured last year alone.

Tales Of The Road adverts are showing on TV and in cinemas across the city and nationwide, spelling out the dangers to children aged 6-11 of not taking care when crossing the road.

The TV ads highlight the importance of using the Green Cross Code by finding a safe place to cross, while the cinema campaign reminds them to make sure they can be seen when they’re out after dark.

Sydul, who lives in Stamshaw, is proud to be part of the campaign.

He says: ‘I was scared at the time of the accident and I hope that this will help make the roads safer.

‘It’s great that we will get to learn about road safety. I think roads could be safer, and it’s important to know how to cross properly.’

Sydul’s headteacher, Simon Cattermole, says: ‘As teachers and parents who work with children and young people, it’s your worst nightmare if one of the children you’re looking after is involved in an accident.

‘Sydul being knocked down was horrible, but luckily through the action of someone working opposite the school he’s okay. It’s a lesson to learn for all the children here.’

He continues: ‘The campaign is so important, especially at this time of year when we have dark mornings and dark evenings.’

‘If this campaign goes on and makes sure no children are injured, then it’s been a success. Once it was explained to Sydul that he would be part of it, he was delighted to be involved.’

Simon has already had the Portsmouth road safety team at the school, taking workshops.

He says: ‘They worked with the children on things including stopping distances and crossing roads. We at the school also give bicycle awareness training, part of a national scheme for the over-10s.

‘They must sit the test if they are that age at our school. I’m a cyclist as well as a driver, so I know how vulnerable you are out there.’

The road safety team teaches similar workshops in and around the city throughout the year, building awareness about the dangers of roads.

Nicola Waight, road safety co-ordinator for the city council, says: ‘We went into Stamshaw Junior School where Sydul is a pupil and held classes for the Year Fours on judging distances, and we did one on the Green Cross Code which included Sydul’s class.

‘We talked about ‘‘stop, look, listen... and look again’’. We have to include the ‘‘look again’’ because when children are trying to cross there are so many parked cars. It doesn’t help that people don’t always park appropriately.’

Although these special classes were held following Sydul’s accident, the team also went into the school to teach Year Six pupils about stopping distances and Year One pupils about the Green Cross Code.

Although the number of deaths or serious injuries among children in road accidents has dropped dramatically since the 1990s, the road safety team is still keen to maintain awareness about the dangers of roads.

‘From 1994 to 1998 there were on average 23 children either killed or seriously injured each year in road traffic accidents in the city,’ Nicola says.

‘That went down to 12 in 2010. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done, because there should be none.’

Nicola advises: ‘Find a safe place to cross and if you have to cross between cars make sure they aren’t reversing. Edge out to the line, then stop, look, listen... and look again.’

Nicola and her team have also been urging drivers to slow down. She says: ‘We want them to stick to 20mph in 20mph zones because it makes a dramatic difference. At 20mph it takes 12m to stop, and at 30mph it takes 23m.’

A downloadable booklet is available from the THINK! website called Tales Of The Road – A Highway Code for Young Road Users.

Follow the Green Cross Code

· Firstly, find the safest place to cross.

· Stop just before you get to the kerb.

· Look all around for traffic and listen.

· If traffic is coming, let it pass.

· When it is safe, go straight across the road – do not run.

Safety tips

· When you cross the road, don’t take risks, your children will copy you. Research shows that young children can’t judge vehicle speed or how far away they are, so if they see you taking risks they will probably take risks too.

· Let your child show you that they know how to cross the road safely – start practising on quiet roads first.

· Point out dangerous places to cross on local roads. Point out safer places as well. Some places may be safer at some times of the day than at others.

· Use pedestrian crossings even if it involves a small detour.

· Talk about the importance of not using a mobile phone or texting while crossing the road.

· Remind your child that they cannot hear traffic if listening to music through earphones, or see it properly if wearing a large hood.

Be bright and be seen!

Special high-visibility tabards and other clothing can be bought from many retailers, with fluorescent armbands being worn over coats and other clothing.

Bags are available in bright colours or with high-visibility strips, and if walking near traffic at night reflective clothing is needed as it will reflect the light from car and bike headlamps. But it’s important to remember that fluorescent colours do not show up in the dark.