December 8, 2011

Mother Takes on Speedy Drivers

THE mother of a North East schoolboy killed by a speeding driver has backed a road safety campaign calling for greater restrictions on young drivers.Steven Atkinson, 12, triumphed over leukaemia and a range of other health problems in his life, only for it to be cut short by speeding Ross Telfer.The youngster was crossing a road in Sunderland on his bike in October 2009 when 21-year-old Telfer appeared in a Mini racing along at 53mph in a 30mph zone.Telfer, of Creighton Avenue, Chester-le-Street, was unable to stop and knocked Steven off his bike, causing fatal injuries, and was last year jailed for 16 months at Newcastle Crown Court.Now Steven’s mother Violet and father Graeme have spoken of the need for “graduated driver licensing”, including a minimum learning-to-drive period and restrictions for novices.The couple, also parents to John, 19, Dawn, 16, and Katie, five, yesterday launched Road Safety Week at Sunderland College’s Usworth Campus, in Washington.Violet, 40, said: “Graduated driver licensing could have made a difference, and might have saved Steven’s life.“Drivers need to think about the consequences of driving irresponsibly. If we can make just one person change, then it will be worth it.”Graeme, 41, said: “Steven overcame so much in his life. He was only young but he was the sort of person who loved to help people so I think he would be proud to see us here today.”According to road safety charity Brake, casualty statistics show a young person is killed on the North East’s roads every six weeks.Young drivers are involved in a disproportionately high number of crashes that kill and injure people of all ages.To spread this message, a team of firefighters demonstrated the horrifying reality of being cut from a car crash.District manager Keith Carruthers, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Many young people are at high risk of being injured or killed in a road crash but they don’t think about this when they get in a car.“By having the opportunity to be involved in a mock road traffic collision, they can experience first hand the devastating consequences of road traffic collisions.”Road safety campaigners say graduated driver licensing would prevent 200 deaths and thousands of injuries each year.Kath Hartley, from Brake, said: “We need drivers of all ages in the North East to show compassion at the wheel, to realise they have lives in their hands, and pledge to drive safely and legally.“And we need the Government to help young, inexperienced drivers to be safer, by implementing graduated driver licensing.“We’re appealing for a commitment to this evidenced, life-saving policy during Road Safety Week.”

By Kim Carmichael

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