Drivers warned to watch out for distracted youngsters in the dark

As the clocks go back and darkness falls an hour earlier, the Institute of Advanced Motorists is warning motorists to take extra care as youngsters make their way home from school

Pedestrians on a mobile phone represent a real hazard, warns the IAM.

While much has been said about watching out for youngsters on their way to school, it’s the afternoon walk home that carries a greater risk as under 16’s are distracted by playing with friends, listening to music or interacting on social media on their phones.

Research from the Department for Transport's THINK! initiative showed that 62% of 11 to 16-year-olds admit to being distracted by talking to friends as they cross the road, a similar number had to stop a friend from having an accident by either pulling them back or calling out, and 36% of girls and 25% of boys say they get distracted by using their mobile phones.

"Technology has moved on at such a pace, it is clear that youngsters are being distracted by the myriad of portable entertainment devices available to them," explained Neil Greig, IAM’s director of policy and research. Neil added: "It is everyone's responsibility to make sure we don't create another young casualty. A bit of forward thinking and increased awareness will make our roads safer for everyone."

A report commissioned by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and supported by the IAM looked at trends in pedestrian safety and found the age at which pedestrians are most at risk is 12 years old. Additionally, casualties peak between 3 and 5pm, with 23% of injuries occurring in this two hour period.

To keep children safe between school and home, the IAM has these suggestions for drivers…

  • Don't compromise your concentration and the safety of other road users by being in a hurry. Leaving the house five minutes earlier changes the nature of how you make the journey.
  • Take extra care to compensate for the fact that children won't always be paying attention, especially when approaching the school gate.
  • Never stop on the yellow "zig zags" by the school gate, and always ensure you let your passengers out on the pavement side.
  • Roads surrounding schools are usually limited to 20 mph - it's essential that you slow down and keep an eye out for children crossing the road and emerging from between parked cars.
  • New starters in reception class are unlikely to understand the dangers that the road outside their school presents - bear this in mind when driving nearby and keep your eyes peeled for children wandering into the road alone.
  • If your children are walking to school on their own, make sure they are aware of potential hazards such as crossing busy roads - encourage them to always use the pedestrian crossing if there is one.
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