Please don't let us have any more child death heartbreak
* Our Road Safety Authority expert pleads with motorists and parents to be ultra-cautious as the toll exceeds last year's figure six months early
EVERY Wednesday we broadcast a radio message to highlight some important road safety messages. The recording usually gives the number of penalty points issued, the number of drivers arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and the number of people killed in the previous seven days.
From time to time, we change these figures to highlight a worrying development.
Well if you've heard today's recording, you'll know that we are extremely concerned about the number of children who have been killed on our roads so far this year.
Over the past number of months, I've been receiving more and more emails from the Garda Press Office alerting the media to the fact that a child has died on the road. It is always demoralising when we are notified of a road death but it breaks your heart when a child is involved.
Nine children under the age of 16 have died so far this year: five pedestrians and four car passengers. This means we have already exceeded the total number of child deaths for last year by two fatalities. And we are not even six months into 2014.
With primary schools closing for the summer in the coming weeks, more children will be spending time outdoors. The risks increase at this time of year so I am asking everyone, particularly drivers, to be extra cautious, especially in built-up areas.
Look out for children who might be playing, walking or cycling on or near the road.
Remember, children are our most vulnerable road users because of their age and the fact that they are not able to recognise danger like adults.
So make sure you pay extra attention when children are nearby and slow down to cope with the unexpected. This is really important when driving in housing estates where you will find lots of children playing over the summer months.
Take care when pulling out of driveways too because there could be a child in your blind spot. A handy tip that a consultant in emergency medicine gave me recently was to advise parents to put their 'tot on the spot' when pulling out. Simply, put them somewhere you can see them when manoeuvring. Of course, if you reverse into your driveway, you'll be able to react better when the neighbour's child goes whizzing past on a bike just as you pull out.
I would urge parents and child minders to speak to their children about road safety and teach their children about playing safely near roads and being aware when they're walking or cycling. If they're skateboarding, using a scooter or cycling on the estate, talk to them about how important it is to wear protective gear such as a helmet and pads. If they are out cycling on the roads, make sure they wear a high visibility jacket.
If children are walking or playing near roads, make sure they know that they should only cross the road with a grown-up and only when it's safe to do so.
Get your child to practise the Safe Cross Code with you and set an example for how they should use the roads. Children learn from what we as adults and parents do.
It really is up to each parent to decide if their child is ready to cycle or cross the road on their own but as a guide, child psychologists suggest that children really don't develop the necessary skills to identify a danger or threat until about 11 or 12.
If you're in the car, make sure the children are all strapped in properly in the right seat for their height and weight.
Remember, children cannot be responsible for their own safety so that's why it's up to us adults to look after them.