Parents and teachers have been urged to be vigilant over the safety of local children as they travel to and from school over the coming months.
The Western Education and Library Board (WELB) issued the warning as heavy fog and overnight frosts combined with darker mornings and evenings this week reduced visibility and made road conditions for drivers and pedestrians across the north west more dangerous.
A letter has now been issued to all schools and colleges urging principals, parents, guardians to work with children in order to promote the safety message.
WELB Chief Executive Barry Mulholland said: “It is imperative that parents/ guardians and teachers remind pupils, regardless of their ages, of the need for extra vigilance during the winter months, and especially over the Christmas period.
“Pupils need to be particularly careful when travelling to and from schools, as limited visibility during dark mornings and evenings, coupled with the excitement surrounding the Christmas Season can result in serious, and sometimes fatal, accidents.
“The safety and wellbeing of pupils is a key priority for all of us. The WELB remains fully committed to promoting and enhancing safe travel for young people to and from schools.”
Board officials said that research showed that the wearing of reflective or high visibility school clothing has a major impact on the safety of pupils travelling to and from schools.
They also advised that the highest risk for serious injuries, or fatalities, is when pupils are getting off buses.
“Therefore it is important that they take up a position at the side of the road and allow the bus to move safely away before attempting to cross the road,” a spokesman said, adding: “Pupils should only cross the road when it is free of traffic and when they have a clear view to their left and right.”
All vehicles used to transport WELB pupils are fitted with seatbelts and parents and guardians are urged to remind their children to wear these at all times when travelling to and from schools.