A few seconds can change a family forever.
Local motorists and visitors to the area are urged to ‘slow down when kids are around in holiday time’ following a new partnership between the Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation (LBDF) and MidCoast Council.
Council will install 138 ‘slow down’ and ‘hold my hand’ signs as well as six banners in popular parks, reserves and beaches in Harrington, Old Bar, Hallidays Point, Forster-Tuncurry, Boomerang Beach, Bluey's Beach, Seal Rocks and Hawks Nest.
The signs will be in place for the duration of the school holidays before being reintroduced before the 2019 Easter holidays.
LBDF founder and CEO Michelle McLaughlin knows too well that a few seconds can change a family forever.
Mrs McLaughlin’s son Thomas was killed after being hit by a car during a family holiday on the Central Coast in 2014.
"This campaign was created in the loving memory of our precious son Thomas.
“Our Tom was a very happy, intelligent, energetic and helpful little boy that so many people adored because he had that special magnetic charisma.
“To lose a young child with a bright future ahead of him was a brutal and hard blow to bare. Your heart is forever broken.
“We needed to find a strategy to survive the tragedy and absolute agony of losing Tom in such a senseless manner because we are hypervigilant and safety conscious parents.
“It’s a campaign not just on drivers, children, parents and carers, it is also a vital campaign for our community to raise awareness and increase knowledge so that we can preserve children’s safety and in turn know happiness and the joy of life, especially at holiday time,” Mrs McLaughlin said.
Mrs McLaughlin said the foundation is driven to educate and protect child pedestrians from the dangers of roadways and motor vehicles
“The last thing communities need is to be experiencing the trauma associated with managing critical road trauma injury or worse involving precious children.
“We must always remember that children in comparison to adults have a cognitive disadvantage- they have limited peripheral vision and slower reflexes.
“They are often focused on the moment so whilst they may hear a message like ‘stop’, it will take their brain extra time to react, potentially placing them in life threatening danger,” Mrs McLaughlin said.
Mrs McLaughlin revealed some alarming statistics:
- If a pedestrian is hit at 40 km/h, there’s a 25 per cent chance of fatality or permanent injury.
- At 50 km/h, there is a 55 per cent chance of fatality or permanent injury.
- At 60 km/h, there is an 85 per cent chance pedestrians will die
“Our children are small and fragile so often the speed limit can play a major role in whether they live or die if hit by a motor vehicle,” Mrs McLaughlin said.
LBDF’s other key message relates to parents and carers ensuring they hold hands with children under the age of ten when walking near roads, driveways, footpaths or carparks.
The name of the foundation was spawned from Thomas’ signature drawing as a child and his favourite colour.
MidCoast Council’s road safety officer Chris Dimarco took a proactive role to implement the campaign in the area.
On Wednesday, December 5, he was joined by Mrs McLaughlin, Manning Great Lakes Police District officers and other council representatives to launch the initiative at Harrington’s Oxley Reserve.
Mr Dimarco didn’t hesitate to get on board with the campaign.
“In my role as road safety officer at council, I was very excited to be involved with the LBDF as other councils had commended the foundation’s positive and professional road safety campaign.
The last thing communities need is to be experiencing the trauma associated with managing critical road trauma injury or worse involving precious children.Michelle McLaughlin, Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation CEO
“As I read about Thomas and the family, I shed tears of grief.
“As a father of three myself, I could never imagine the pain and grief involved.
“These were followed by tears of joy for the strength of the McLaughlin family and how they faced challenges after the loss of Thomas,” Mr Dimarco said.
MidCoast Council Mayor David West was pleased Mrs McLaughlin wanted to implement the signage campaign in the area.
“I don’t know how, on behalf of our community, to thank you enough for turning your grief into a positive action which keeps Thomas in your mind and heart.
“You’ve turned that into something really positive.
“The loss of any life, child or adult, is a waste of a life particularly when they can be prevented,” Mayor West said.
Forty-two councils have now adopted the campaign.
Manning Great Lakes Police District Commander Superintendent Shane Cribb said the campaign has its place in the community and pledged to continue support for the foundation.
“Road trauma is a major concern and unfortunately local police are normally the first ones on scene and are normally the ones that have to go out and deal with the family of the deceased.
“Officers have to identify those who are deceased and they have to do a number of investigations.
“It doesn’t matter to me if there’s one or 5000- one is too many when it comes to road trauma.
“Any preventative measures that we can come up with in relation to road trauma are a plus.
“You can be rest assured you have our full support in the reduction of road trauma in this area,” Superintendent Cribb said.
Superintendent Cribb stressed how easy it is for children to lose sense of nearby vehicles when playing outside.
“Our children are inquisitive- they’re not robots, they’re not structures so we need to be mindful and educate our children and keep an eye on them,” Superintendent Cribb said.