Child safety campaign in shire over Christmas holidays stems from death of four-year-old

A road safety initiative that is being conducted in Sutherland Shire over the Christmas holidays was sparked by the death of a child five years ago.

The council is partnering with the Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation in the campaign called Holiday Time: Slow Down, Kids Around.

Colourful signs with pedestrian road safety messages have been installed at key locations across the shire to remind drivers to slow down and be vigilant during the holiday period.

The campaign is operating in more than 61 local government areas in four states.

The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation was started by Michelle and David McLaughlin, following the death of their son Thomas (Tom) at Macmasters Beach on the Central Coast on the evening of January 6, 2014.

Michelle McLaughlin, who attended the campaign launch at Cronulla, said the accident happened on the second day of a family holiday.

"At 5.55pm our family began gathering at the front of the rental property to walk towards the beach just 250 metres away for a swim at the end of a scorching hot day," she said on the foundation's website.

"Tom had been so overjoyed and excited at the prospect of using his new surfboard for the first time when he unpredictably and very quickly took two steps from a stationary position from the grassy verge which blended seamlessly into the narrow 5.3 metre wide beach hamlet roadway.

"Horrifyingly, Tom had stepped directly and innocently into the pathway of a 4WD travelling at 50 kilometres per hour, which is the default speed limit for this area.

"Those dreadful moments directly following Tom's accident are etched in our minds forever - the helplessness, despair, shock, horror and desperation as we frantically tried to resuscitate his severely injured tiny body.

"Sadly, by the time the ambulance arrived he was promptly pronounced deceased at the scene. Every parent's worst nightmare."

Ms McLaughlin said the Cronulla beach area was very dangerous for children.

"You have a car park with a lot of movement and next to it a recreational facility and beautiful beach, which attracts families on holiday," she said.

"I think it's a priority you have an awareness campaign in an area like this," she said.

"We lost our precious son Tom in the blink of an eye. We don't want this to happen to anyone else."

Mayor Carmelo Pesce said the signs not only encouraged drivers to slow down, but also to hold the hands of children under their supervision when they are near or crossing our roads."

"No parent should have to go through what Michelle and David McLaughlin have with the loss of their son Tom," he said.

"I admire and commend their passion for promoting child road safety initiatives and education to avoid tragedies like this happening again."

Prime Minister and Cook MP Scott Morrison threw his support behind the campaign.

"Our children are precious and it's us up to all of us to protect them," he said.

"I encourage the community to get on board to raise awareness of road safety.

"Michelle and David, I commend you on your campaign and to keep Tom's spirit alive."

The shire project has received funding from IMB Bank's Community Foundation.

Children's Limitations

The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation says until children reach the age of 10, they have:

  • Limitation in their cognitive abilities to understand each element of the complex (and constantly changing) road environment.
  • Trouble determining the origin of sound when a car is approaching.
  • They take longer to react to sudden changes in the traffic environment.
  • Generally lack the height to fully assess the scene.
  • They are often absorbed in what the activities they are doing and whilst they might hear a message such as "stop!", it will take their brain additional time to react. This could potentially place them in life threatening danger.
  • Children may falsely believe that a roadway that appears quiet is okay to play on.