Merton alerts road users to the dangers of mobiles

In conjunction with ‘Road Safety Week’ (21 Nov – 25 Nov) and the theme of ‘2young2die’, Merton Council is calling on drivers and road users to watch out for the deadly distraction mobile phones can cause when using the roads.

Though it is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, many motorists still break the law by using them and many people, especially children and younger people, are also making themselves vulnerable by using their phones whilst crossing the road.

Merton has thankfully seen a steady decline in serious road incidents over the last couple of years, with a 4% reduction from 2009 to 2010, but it has also very sadly seen one fatality in 2011 too. Provisional figures indicate that there have been a further 308 injuries in Merton so far this year. This includes 263 slight injuries and 28 serious injuries, many of which could have been avoided.

The most vulnerable are the 10 – 15 year old age group who often sustain injuries through distraction and carelessness when crossing roads. To try and pass the serious message on about the distraction phones can cause, Merton’s Road Safety team are providing workshops and presentations in the borough’s schools to reinforce safe crossing message with all age groups. Schools are also hoping to introduce Junior Road Safety Officers for years five and six (aged 10 – 11) to encourage their peer groups to be more vigilant when using the road.

Merton is also calling on its staff and local residents to sign a pledge ‘ Pledge 2 drive safely’ where motorists do their bit by pledging to wear a seatbelt, slow down, drive sober, not tired, or using a mobile, and if possible reduce unnecessary driving too.

Councillor Edith Macauley, Merton Council cabinet member for community safety, engagement and equalities said:

” Although Merton has had a relatively low level of serious road incidents, there is always more that can be done to reduce this number. It doesn’t take much for either a driver or someone crossing the road to become distracted by their mobile phone and be part of an incident which could have been otherwise avoided and we want to alert people to this issue.

” Trying to keep our roads as safe as possible and protect our young people is crucial. The work the council does year on year with schools is invaluable for getting this message out, but I hope that motorists and non-motorists alike take notice of this week and think twice before illegally using their phone whilst driving or being distracted when crossing the road.”