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Monday 22 September 2014

No child should be responsible for their own safety. Parents must act

Our RSA expert appeals for much greater care as we go back to school

Published 27/08/2014 | 02:30

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There has been a worrying rise in child fatalities.

AS it is back to school time, I would like to talk about the worrying rise in child fatalities on our roads again this year.

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In the first eight months, 14 children under 16 have died. Last year, seven children lost their lives. The number so far this year is already double the total for 2013. Seven were pedestrians and seven were car passengers.

Parents and teachers are busy right now getting set for back to school. I would appeal to them not to forget road safety.

I'd ask parents to please consider adding bicycle helmets, bike lights and hi-vis vests or jackets to their shopping lists to ensure children are safe going to and from school.

A detailed report, which we will publish for our back-to-school campaign, examines the number of children (0-14) killed on our roads between 1997 to 2012.

It tells us that the greatest danger they face is when walking; 44pc of those who died were pedestrians.

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Parents, please sit down with your children and talk about the Safe Cross Code, and ideally have a practice walk of the route before the term starts. This will help them choose the safest places to cross.

Visit rsa.ie for tips or download the new Safe Cross Code App and let your children play the crossing the road game. Remember though, a child doesn't develop the ability to recognise danger fully until they are about 11 or 12. So supervision will be essential if walking to school until they have reached this age.

Of course, parents will ultimately be best placed to make this call.

The report tells us that the next danger zone for children is when travelling in a car: 37pc killed on the road were passengers. Shockingly, Garda reports on collisions from 2006 to 2012 indicate that 1-in-10 of these victims was not wearing a seatbelt or using a child restraint. What a shocking thought. No child should be responsible for their own safety.

So it's up to us as adults to make sure they are strapped in. I would also urge parents to impress on their children the importance of wearing their seatbelts on the school bus.

Speak to your child about cycle safety too, and why it's important to wear a helmet. Speak to your school principal about getting cycling proficiency training for their pupils. The RSA provides funding to each local authority for such training.

Remember though, children will do as we do, so always make sure you set the example.The RSA has its own back-to-school checklist to prepare. For the fifth year running the RSA will team up with Electric Ireland to distribute 85,500 high visibility vests to every child starting school this year. The vests will be included in the RSA's 'Back to School' road safety packs which will be sent to primary schools over the coming months.

We are also reminding teachers of the resources available to teach road safety in the class room.

They include 'Simon and Friends' which aims to promote and encourage road safety among pre-schoolers.

At primary level, there are six road safety programmes including the 'Safe Cross Code' and the 'Seatbelt Sheriff'. At secondary level, there is the Junior Cycle resource entitled 'Streetwise' as well as 'Your Road to Safety' for Transition Year. Our 'Let's Go' CD, a road safety resource for principals and teachers, will be delivered to every secondary school over the coming weeks.

The RSA Road Safety Shuttle, Car Rollover Seatbelt Simulator (like a car on a spit that rotates 360 degrees), and 'Street Smart' will begin visiting schools at the start of the academic year.

It's disappointing that none of these interventions are compulsory, but that's a discussion for another day.

Irish Independent

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