AN inventor hopes to make youngsters’ walk to school even safer after improving the traditional lollipop sign.

Andrew Turner says he expects his illuminated design to save lives after securing meetings with distributors following charity backing.

The development comes after The Northern Echo reported Mr Turner’s light-up prototype was being tested outside schools in Peterlee, east Durham, and Tanfield Lea, near Stanley, County Durham.

Mr Turner, who operates from an office at Sedgefield’s NetPark, says his changes are the first upgrade to the crossing sign in five decades.

He added the prototype, which has an eight-hour battery, has been developed with support from Spennymoor’s Thorn Lighting, revealing its origins come from a near-miss in Darlington on a winter’s morning.

Mr Turner, who has also worked with business partner Matthew Thoburn, said: “(The incident) made me think the driver needs something more visible because of the number of distractions, such as the abundance of brake lights and modern technology on roads.

“The only thing which has changed over the decades is the school crossing patrol person’s uniform – they’ve become more highly visible but the stick hasn’t.

“I really do believe this has the potential to save lives in the future.

“We’ve already hit our target in terms of performance, battery life and weight.

“Our next step is to be innovative in manufacturing to keep costs down.”

Mr Turner added that since developing the prototype, a survey by Durham County Council has shown drivers were braking up to 40 per cent faster than with a normal stick.

The sign was created using a laser etching machine at Thorn, with Mr Turner also receiving support from charity Road Safety GB.

Gavin Brydon, vice-president for operations at Thorn, backed Mr Turner’s work, saying the company was delighted to support a local inventor.

Mr Turner was introduced to the company by Caroline Taukulis, strategic account manager at Business Durham, Durham County Council’s business division, and Councillor Neil Foster said the partnership was a fantastic opportunity for both sides.

Councillor Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration, added: “Andrew is a shining example of the innovation going on right across the county.”

Last year, The Northern Echo revealed Mr Turner had created a system to improve safety on offshore oil and gas platforms.

Bright Route, which enhances existing emergency lighting equipment, uses lasers to create a pathway for workers caught up in thick smoke from a fire.

However, his inventions cover a number of other sectors, and include Abidot, a laser-based welding tool that helps users maintain a steady hand.

He also hopes to launch a mentoring-style programme for schools, to inspire youngsters to come up with ideas and turn them into reality.