A BRIGHT idea designed to make schoolchildren safer on dark winter evenings is being tested in the North-East.

Darlington inventor Andrew Turner has created a prototype for a new illuminated lollipop stick to be used on school crossing patrols, to replace the traditional reflective model.

Starting today (Friday, November 29), the new invention will be trialled over a four-week period on Thorpe Road in Peterlee and at Tanfield Lea Primary School in Stanley, both in County Durham.

If the pilot is successful, the developers hope the new-look lollipop sticks will be used across the country.

The sticks are designed to be more visible to drivers giving them more time to slow down for crossing patrol supervisors, particularly during the darker mornings and evenings in the winter months.

Alan Kennedy, Durham County Council’s Road Safety Manager said: "This is an interesting technological development which may help to improve road safety for children walking to school.

"We have agreed to run a four week trial of the illuminated lollipop sticks at two of our crossing patrol locations to look at whether they are effective."

Mr Turner had the idea for the illuminated lollipop stick after witnessing a near-miss at a crossing patrol site in Darlington during bad weather conditions.

He began working on the prototype which was then taken to local entrepreneur and campaigner, Neil Herron for further development.

Describing how the prototype works, Mr Turner said: "The illuminated Lollipop Stick uses an electro-luminescent material and some clever circuitry – all connected to a rechargeable battery pack contained in the handle and a tilt switch to ensure automatic illumination.

"The sign can be set to provide constant illumination or flashing mode."

Project director Mr Herron said: "We have developed the illuminated Lollipop Stick to become the focal point for wider road safety awareness around schools. It will help stimulate debate amongst schoolchildren, parents and drivers. It will hopefully lead to a national awareness campaign."

The operation of crossing sites throughout the UK began in 1957, with the familiar round sticks being introduced in the 1960s. Failing to stop for the signs can lead to three points on a driver’s licence and a fine of up to £1,000.