Hot Topic: Schools Death Trap?

Are the roads around our schools an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen?

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when we drop our kids at school, we trust they’ll be safe. Yet, every month, over 1,000 are in­jured on the roads around Bri­tish schools.

This is the fright­en­ing statis­tic high­lighted in an in-depth study by Road Safety Anal­y­sis.

In June, an 11-year-old boy was air­lifted to Birm­ing­ham Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal af­ter suf­fer­ing life-threat­en­ing in­juries out­side his school.

A month be­fore, a girl suf­fered se­ri­ous head in­juries af­ter be­ing hit by a car out­side her school in Sur­rey.

And, in Septem­ber last year, 5-year-old Len­non Toland was struck by a van and killed on his way home from pri­mary school in Glas­gow. Pub­lic Health Eng­land’s anal­y­sis of po­lice-re­ported road-ca­su­alty data over a fiveyear pe­riod be­tween 2008 and 2012 showed that the largest num­ber of child in­juries oc­cur be­tween 8am and 9am and be­tween 3pm and 7pm – at the be­gin­ning and end of the school day.

Ar­eas around schools of­ten have a 20-30mph speed limit but, in a sur­vey con­ducted by road-safety char­ity Brake, more than half of mo­torists ad­mit­ted to driv­ing faster than 25mph in a 20mph zone. David Nichols from Brake said, ‘All chil­dren have the right to play safely and live a healthy life with­out fear. Yet, in the UK – one of the most de­vel­oped coun­tries in the world – our chil­dren are of­ten de­nied th­ese rights be­cause of the lethal dan­ger posed by fast traf­fic.’ More coun­cils seem to be tak­ing steps to ad­dress the risk. This July, Croy­don be­came the lat­est

Lon­don bor­ough to start fin­ing par­ents £130 for driv­ing near the school gates, and a sim­i­lar scheme op­er­ates in Hack­ney, east Lon­don.

Think!, the Depart­ment of Trans­port road-safety ex­perts, cam­paigns tire­lessly to teach about the dan­gers of the roads.

Oth­ers are tak­ing the sit­u­a­tion into their own hands.

Tougher penal­ties

Heart­bro­ken mother Me­lanie Tal­bot, 45, lost her son Ash­ley, 15, in De­cem­ber 2014, when he was struck by a school minibus in school grounds.

She hopes a law will be passed to pre­vent fur­ther tragedies. Ash­ley’s Law would en­force a 5mph speed limit within school grounds and out­side the gates.

She also wants tougher penal­ties for driv­ers who park dan­ger­ously close to the gates.

Me­lanie, from Port Tal­bot, said, ‘I don’t want any other par­ents to have to go to view their child in a mor­tu­ary.

‘The last thing I see when I go to sleep, if I sleep, is Ash­ley in the mor­tu­ary.’

Since Ash­ley’s death in De­cem­ber 2014, Brid­gend coun­cil and the school have both been work­ing to try to im­prove road safety.

They are in­vest­ing in a CCTV unit to help catch and fine driv­ers park­ing and driv­ing dan­ger­ously out­side the school.

‘Kids are sup­posed to be pro­tected in school,’ said Me­lanie. ‘We never went into this say­ing our son was com­pletely in­no­cent – he was a kid run­ning for the back seat of the bus. But with a few im­prove­ments, schools can be made a hell of a lot safer.

‘It’s deemed an ac­ci­dent, but we have to live with this.’

Me­lanie – who is also bat­tling breast can­cer – says she still feels up­set by the amount of dan­ger­ous park­ing and driv­ing she sees out­side other schools.

Like in so many of th­ese cases, no-one was break­ing the law when Ash­ley was hit. But chil­dren are still dy­ing. So it’s easy to agree with Me­lanie. It’s the law that needs to change – and the sooner the bet­ter.

Chil­dren are still dy­ing. The law needs to change – and soon

Me­lanie lost her son Ash­ley

Tragedy: Len­non Toland was only 5

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