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IAM warns drivers to be aware of distracted youngsters on their daily commute‏

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Leading road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has issued a warning to drivers to stay on their guard on their daily commute, as distracted youngsters make their way home from school at the start of the autumn term.

Many schools in England return from the summer break this week, and as is the case each year the risk of an accident becomes significantly greater as the school run brings with it a 20 per cent growth in rush hour traffic.

While much has been said about watching out for youngsters on their way to school, the IAM has warned that a greater risk comes on the way home from school – where under 16’s are more likely to be distracted by playing with their friends, listening to music or interacting on social media on their phones.

Existing research from the Department for Transport’s THINK! initiative showed that 62% of 11-16 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.

Neil Greig, IAM Director of Policy and Research said: “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."

An existing report commissioned by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) and supported by the IAM called Stepping Out looked at trends in pedestrian safety. It found children are more likely to be injured in spring and summer (excluding August) and more likely to be injured as pedestrians on weekdays at morning and afternoon school times. It also found the age at which pedestrians are most at risk is 12 years old.

The research showed while there were naturally peaks in casualties between 7 and 9am (15% of child pedestrian casualties being in this two hour period), there was an even greater peak between 3 and 5pm (nearly 23% during these times) suggesting that while children may be driven to school, they make their own way home in the afternoon – making this a more crucial time for drivers to be aware of young pedestrians.

The IAM also urged drivers to be more vigilant in rural or remote areas, as the findings showed 70% of child casualties were injured on sections of road not at or near a pedestrian crossing.

The charity also offered a series of tips towards ensuring everyone remains safe during rush hour as the schools return.

• 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 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.

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.”

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