It’s school holidays across Australia, and this week I am welcoming a guest post from Michelle McLaughlin, Founder and CEO of the Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation.
The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation was established by Michelle and David McLaughlin in memory of their four-year-old son Tom, who tragically passed away in a pedestrian road accident while on a Central Coast family vacation in 2014.
Below Michelle tells her story and explains why it’s so important to be aware of the extra dangers surrounding travel time, as well as giving some practical tips to remember when on family holidays.
Parents and Children Watch Out, there are Cars About
Going on a holiday is a fantastic way to spend quality time with the family and enjoy the great outdoors. Although many holiday destinations offer a welcomed change of pace from the pandemonium of home life, parents can sometimes forget to exercise the same level of road safety precautions while on holidays just as they would at home.
Children often do the unexpected and are often highly excitable when engaged in recreational pursuits. They are naturally inquisitive and sometimes unpredictable, especially in environments that are unfamiliar to them. New and unfamiliar holiday destinations are the perfect place for children to explore the outdoors, but when cars and children constantly on the move, there is increased risk.
More than one third of motor vehicle incidents that claim the lives of pedestrians under the age of six occur in off-road areas such as car parks, driveways, and recreational areas including caravan and camping sites. While on vacation children love to explore, but there are serious dangers that parents need to be mindful and vigilant of in order to keep their children safe.
Unfamiliar roadways are vastly different from your average neighbourhood’s streets and driveways – so the road safety rules that apply at home are not always applicable in these environments. Unlike typical residential areas, roadways in beach hamlets and other holiday destinations which experience a huge seasonal spike in population may not always have standard kerbs, gutter structures, or lines on the road that children are familiar with, which can result in a child straying right into the way of danger.
The cognitive skills of a child are not as developed as an adult’s, which means that their ability to make judgements about movement and distance, as well as being able to pinpoint the direction of sound is also limited. Finally, a young child’s reaction and reflex times are still developing, so being able to respond to dangerous situations can take longer, too. Therefore, it is up to a child’s parents or carers to ensure that the best possible safety measures are in place to keep their kids out of harm’s way.
The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation is one Australian organisation that is tackling the issue of child pedestrian road safety with a specific focus on holiday-time travel and assists to place LBDF ‘holiday time’ road safety signage in holiday destinations to remind us to ‘Slow Down kids Around’ and ‘Hold Hands’ of those children under age 10 years.
The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation was started by Michelle and David McLaughlin, following the death of their four-year-old son Tom in a pedestrian road accident on the Central Coast in 2014.
Michelle and David created the foundation in order to “educate parents and carers on the potential dangers in their children’s interactions with roadways in ‘out of the normal’ environments”. The foundation suggests a number of ways parents and carers can be more road safety conscious when on holiday, including:
- Having a road safety conversation with your child once you’ve arrived at your holiday destination, and pointing out any potentially dangerous areas that should be avoided;
- Explaining to your child any visual differences in roadways to ensure that your child can identify hazardous areas for themselves;
- Identifying outdoor areas that are away from roadways where your child can play safely;
- Actively supervising your child whenever they are outdoors;
A few extra minutes explaining road safety to your children when arriving at your holiday destinations and always remembering to hold their hands near roadways can insure a safe and enjoyable holiday for the entire family.
“We lost our precious son, Tom in the blink of an eye. We don’t want this to happen to anyone else. The cost is just too high. That’s why the ‘Holiday Time, Slow Down Kids Around’ message is so important,” Mrs McLaughlin said.