'Please slow down, for Tom': grieving parents urge holidaymakers to take care

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

A family whose lives were shattered following the death of their son five years ago are urging others to take extra care on the roads this holiday season.

David and Michelle McLaughlin's son Tom was just four-years-old when he was hit and killed by a car on his way to the beach. He was on summer holiday on NSW's Central Coast with his parents and two siblings Sophie and Hugh.

A safe and road-conscious child, Tom was excited to try out his new boogie board – a gift from Santa. He was in an unfamiliar environment and immersed in holiday spirit when he died in the shock accident.

Four-year-old Tom McLaughlin died in January, 2014.
Four-year-old Tom McLaughlin died in January, 2014.  

"Our Tom was a very happy, loving, intelligent, energetic and helpful little boy that so many people adored because he had that special magnetic charisma," David and Michelle said.

"As Tom's parents we remain very proud of him and will always love him deeply."

In their immense grief, the family searched for ways to move forward.

"As a family we needed to find a 'strategy' to survive the tragedy and agony of losing Tom in such a senseless manner because we are hyper-vigilant and safety conscious parents never thinking for a moment that we could ever lose one of our children to a roadway accident in a micro-second," they said.

"We also needed a way to help our remaining two children cope in the future without their beloved brother as part of the family unit as they happily knew it.

"Perhaps Tom could still have a chance to achieve good things as we had always dreamed he would, but the question was how and what that achievement could be to benefit both him and others?"

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And that's how the Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation was started. The foundation educates and protects child pedestrians from the dangers associated with roadways and motor vehicles.

"The foundation's logo is one of Tom's drawings," his parents said.

"He always loved to draw dinosaurs and when we were naming the foundation, these drawings continually started to reveal themselves around the house.

"And so the Little Blue Dinosaur revealed himself to us in all his brilliance."

Tom's death now serves as a tragic reminder for all parents and children, particularly when holidaying in new places with changeable road conditions.

These holidays the Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation is urging road users and families to take extra care on the roads with it's Holiday Time – Slow Down

Kids Around campaign – launched across 42 councils in four states (and counting).

The campaign brings awareness to more kids being on and around roadways.

"There will be more children engaging in recreational activities on or near roads because children love to play, ride scooters and bikes, and take a family walk to the beach for a swim," David and Michelle said.

"However children, in comparison to adults, have a cognitive disadvantage.

"They have limited peripheral vision and slower reflexes, they are often focused on 'the moment' and whilst they may hear messages such as 'stop' it will take their brain extra time to react to, potentially placing them in life threatening behavior."

A "holidays" roadway environment is also unfamiliar to children and may even look different to what they're used to, for example higher speed limits, no line markings and narrow roadways.

The other clear message is for parents or carers to hold their children's hand when walking near roads, footpaths, driveways and car parks.

"Ensure they hold onto a pram, stroller, bag, trolley or your clothing if they cannot hold your hand and closely supervise them up to at least the age of 10-years-old," they said.

"There is no such thing a safe roadway."