Michelle McLaughlin’s four-year-old son, Tom, was a “cautious” child. He was well-versed on road safety and he was well-behaved on regular road-trips to his pre-school and his sister’s primary school.
“He was a really good little boy, he didn’t ever do anything once wrong around a car or in a car-park, he was always telling other people to be careful,” said the Sydney mother.
In January 2014, Michelle and David McLaughlin took their children – Tom, Sophie, 7, and baby Hugh – on a holiday to the central coast. On the second day, Tom was tragically killed in a pedestrian accident on his way to Macmasters Beach.
“He was getting ready to use his surfboard, and a beach was just 200 metres down the road where the accident took place. He was very, very excited. Santa had just given him that surfboard, and it was the first time he was about to use it,” Mrs McLaughlin said.
Tom (left) with his brother, Hugh and older sister, Sophie. Image supplied.
Only months after the accident, amid her sleepless nights, Tom's mother set to work to try and help educate others about pedestrian safety, in an effort to prevent future tragedies.
In April 2014, she created The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation which has a strong focus on holiday time road safety with functional resources for parents and children.
"It’s the best way we could get our message out there, and I believe that there’s a risk for the circumstances around Tom’s accident to be repeated one day, so people need to be teaching and talking to their children about different looking roadways and exercise caution around them," said the 43-year-old.
Mrs McLaughlin found a gap in information about road safety, particularly during the school holidays - a time when school zones are not enforced, children are out and about, out of routine - and not in their usual surroundings.
"Roadways around beach hamlets look different. There’s no typical curb and guttering, there’s often no line marking on the road, they’re often skinny and narrow and it’s confusing potentially for a child," she said.
"Families need to have a road safety discussion when they reach their holiday destination they need to familiarise themselves and then talk to their children about that new traffic environment and stay vigilant, because everyone’s excitement is high on holidays and there’s lots of different recreational activities happening so the routine is very much varied from the normal, and it increases the risk factors."
The McLaughlin family. Image supplied.
The Sydneysider says parents need to hold their children's hands, particularly those under ten years old, because at that age their peripheral vision is not yet fully developed.