The TRAGIC number of child pedestrians killed or injured in Newcastle since 2016

First News has launched a Look Up! campaign to urge youngsters to cross carefully

More than 35 child pedestrians have been killed or seriously injured in Newcastle in the past five years, official figures show.

Safety experts are increasingly concerned about the rise of ‘smombies’ - smartphone zombies - distracted by their phone screens while navigating busy streets.

Now award-winning children’s newspaper First News is warning young people about the dangers of crossing the road while using their mobiles.

It is asking children to design posters that will be sent to all primary and secondary schools nationwide as part of a pack of resources.

All schools will be asked to hold the assembly in the summer or autumn term warning children of the dangers of mobile phone distraction while navigating roads.

Nicky Cox, editor in chief of First News, said: “For many years it has been clear that there is a link between pedestrians being distracted by mobile phones and road collisions.

“Data shows children travelling to, and from, school are at most risk.

“With 2.6 million children reading First News each week, we felt we had a real responsibility to warn them of the dangers and urge them to Look Up!”

In Newcastle, there have been 139 accidents in the past five years where police found a pedestrian had failed to look, according to official figures.

First News are launching a Look Up! campaign

And a study by the University of Lincoln published in 2019 found that mobile phones compromise the safety of school-age pedestrians.

Researchers had observed pupils outside a secondary school in the north of England over a four-week period.

They were watching to see if the pupils looked, or failed to look, left and right before crossing the road, whether they crossed when the pedestrian light was on red or green and whether they crossed on the crossing.

They found that nearly a third (31%) of road crossings were made by pupils with a phone or other device and that they looked less frequently when they had them.

The Look Up! campaign is being supported by JPIMedia, the publisher of this website.

JPIMedia managing editor Tim Robinson said: "It's terrifying how many children are killed or injured on the roads and we all need to do what we can to stop this.

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"The First News Look Up campaign is a really important step to educate children and their parents about the dangers of using a mobile phone while walking.

"We're really committed to this partnership with First News and want to do everything to help spread the word to the kids of Britain."

Global non-profit organisation Safe Kids Worldwide is backing the call.

A spokesperson said: “Every hour of every day, a teen is hit or killed while walking.

“Texting and walking can be fatal. That’s why we’re asking everyone to put phones down when crossing the street.”

National accident data shows those aged 11 to 14 are the most likely to be killed or badly hurt – around 50 every month.

Accidents peak at 8 am to 9 am and again from 3 pm to 4 pm, when young people are making the journey to and from school.

The figures show that children aged 11 and 12 are the most at risk of serious accidents while walking on Britain’s streets.

A total of 801 11-year-old pedestrians were killed or seriously injured in the past five years - double the number of ten-year-olds.

This is the age most children begin to travel on their own to and from school for the first time.

It is also the age at which nearly all children have a smartphone of their own.

Two-thirds of children aged nine to 10 now own a mobile phone, research by CHILDWISE shows. Nearly all children of secondary school age have their own phone.