Sunderland mum whose son died in road tragedy receives British Empire Medal for safety campaigning

Mayor Coun Doris MacKnight with Violet Atkinson
Mayor Coun Doris MacKnight with Violet Atkinson

A Sunderland mum who used a family tragedy to warn others about the fatal consequences of dangerous driving has been honoured.

Violet Atkinson, 46, from Fordham Road, Ford Estate, was presented with a British Empire Medal (BEM) by Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear Susan Winfield OBE in a ceremony in the Mayor's Parlour at Sunderland Civic Centre.

Violet receives her BEM from Lord Lieutenant of Tyneand WearSusan Winfield OBE

Violet receives her BEM from Lord Lieutenant of Tyneand WearSusan Winfield OBE

The BEM is awarded to people in recognition for outstanding services to their country, community, profession or walk of life and Mrs Atkinson received hers for Voluntary and Charitable Services promoting road safety awareness and education.

Violet has dedicated her life to campaigning for better road safety since her 12-year-old son Steven was killed by a speeding motorist while out playing with friends in 2009.

She has worked tirelessly with Northumbria Police and other community road safety partners to highlight the consequences and risk to life caused by dangerous driving, and promote the need for more responsible motoring.

Since first addressing an audience of young drivers at The Sage Gateshead as part of a Northumbria Police road safety initiative in 2013, Violet has used her personal experience to raise awareness of the dangers of reckless driving in a number of road safety campaigns.

Steven Atkinson

Steven Atkinson

In January 2015, she and her family made a short film for schools sharing their experiences of the tragic consequences of dangerous driving, and the grief of losing a loved one because of it.

Since then as part of the 'Roads to Justice' campaign, she has called for tougher sentencing for persistently dangerous drivers, and more scrutiny of those still driving with points on their licences for motoring offences.

"I am honoured to be awarded this medal, and delighted that someone thought enough of me to put my name forward to receive it," she said.

"When we lost Steven I first got involved with supporting the BRAKE road safety campaign, and did anything I could to help the police warn people about dangerous driving.

"If we can help prevent just one accident then it'll all be worthwhile, no family should ever have to go through the pain of losing a loved one because someone didn't take care on the roads."

Violet admitted she had initially thought news of her nomination was a joke.

"When I first got the letter, I thought somebody was messing with me, but then as more arrived, it began to become a reality," she said.

"I was excited but a little nervous. The Lord Lieutenant was lovely."

Mayor of Sunderland Coun Doris MacKnight said: "Violet is a true and inspirational community champion who has put aside her grief in order to help others."

Alongside family and friends, among them daughters Dawn, 22, and eleven-year-old Katie, 11, guests included Northumbria Police officers who worked with Violet on the road safety campaigns, and the new Chief Constable Winton Keenen.

Making the presentation, Mrs Winfield said: "Her Majesty the Queen recognises the outstanding work of individuals through the award of a national honour.

"I am delighted that Mrs Atkinson has been recognised for her tireless and inspirational work in promoting road safety awareness.

"It is my privilege to present her with her British Empire Medal and congratulate her for all her endeavours.

"There are so many unsung heroes in our community and I would like to encourage nominations for national honours."

To find out more about making a nomination, visit www.gov.uk/honours or contact the Tyne and Wear Lieutenancy Office on 0191 433 2047.