A Sunderland woman who has used a family tragedy to warn others about the consequences of dangerous driving has been honoured with a royal medal.

Violet Atkinson, 46, from Fordham Road, Sunderland, dedicated her life to raising awareness of road safety after her son Steven, aged 12, was killed by a speeding car while playing with friends in 2009.

In recognition of her tireless work, Mrs Atkinson was presented with the British Empire Medal (BEM) by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Susan Winfield OBE, at a ceremony in the Mayor’s Parlour of Sunderland Civic Centre on Monday.

People receive the BEM for outstanding services to their country, community, profession or walk of life. Mrs Atkinson was awarded hers for voluntary and charitable services.

Mrs Atkinson began campaigning in 2013, when she spoke to an audience of young drivers at The Sage, Gateshead, as part of a Northumbria Police road safety campaign.

She has been involved in a number of similar campaigns since. In January 2015, the Atkinson family made a short film to be shown in schools highlighting the fatal consequences of reckless driving.

Mrs Atkinson has also been active in the Roads to Justice campaign, which calls for tougher punishments for persistently dangerous drivers and for greater scrutiny of those with points on their licences.

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

“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.”

The Mayor of Sunderland Councillor Doris MacKnight (left) with Violet Atkinson

The mayor of Sunderland, Cllr Doris MacKnight, said, “Violet is a true and inspirational community champion who has put aside her grief in order to help others.”

While presenting the medal, Susan Winfield OBE 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.”

“It is my privilege to present her with her British Empire Medal.”

Mrs Winfield added, “There are so many unsung heroes in our community and I would like to encourage nominations for national honours.”

To learn more about how to make a nomination, please visit www.gov.uk/honours or telephone the Tyne and Wear Lieutenancy Office on 0191 433 2047.

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