I have written before about the hardships of life as a grandparent, but with our granddaughter soon to start school, there is a new hurdle to face. And I don’t mean the fact that she knows everything already.
Having run the gauntlet of the pre-school lane destruction derby, it has come to my attention that the most dangerous thing you can do to a child is taking them to school. Paradoxically, the biggest culprits of those causing the danger are often those who would be first to complain about the dangers of the school run.
Child safety, and the instinct to protect them is a basic principal of evolutionary advancement. If we don’t look after our offspring, the line won’t continue. It’s as simple as that. Regardless of how rich, strong, or powerful you are, you cannot continue the family line. You can play your part, but it is your children who will take the family into the future.
This idea is something deeply embedded throughout every form of life, and is played out across the world.
In best David Attenborough voice:
“Here, we see Mirka, the mother bear leading her cubs through the woods; always on the lookout for danger.”
In best Chris Packham voice:
“Here, we see Flopsy, the mother weasel leading her kits across the field; always on the lookout for danger.”
In best Tom Baker voice:
“Here, we see Shaz, trailing behind her kids on a busy road, always on the lookout for bargains on the Facebook buy and sell groups.”
But at least Shaz is on foot, and the kids are getting some exercise as they run between the parked cars.
Many parents are so protective that they won’t allow the kids to get any exercise. There is a mindset that says, ‘school children are dangerous things, so I need a massive vehicle to protect my kids from the others’. Apparently, a car offers insufficient protection for children, and only a massive 4×4 with reinforced bumpers will do. I once spoke with a mother who assured me that the reason she had to get the huge brand-new four-wheel-drive off-road monster truck was that she had three kids and a dog. The fact that her cleaner also had three kids and a dog, and got by quite happily with an old estate car, was somewhat lost on her.
So, every day, at family homes across the country, Mummy’s little princess is strapped into the back of an anti-personnel vehicle, and not allowed out until she is within six feet of the school gates. Multiply this by the number of parents who drive their kids to school, and the outcome is that the school road is busier and more dangerous than a formula one pit lane.
The owners of these toddler tanks are oblivious to the fact that while Tamsin is safe in the back seat, every other kid in the school becomes a potential target.
However, the danger doesn’t finish when the kids are dropped off. The afternoon brings a second wave of danger. For the hour preceding the end of school, the roads steadily fill with stationary traffic. By the time the bell rings for home time, every road, lane, side-street, back-street, and lay-by for half a mile in all directions from the school gates are filled with parked cars. Many will leave their engines running for the duration of their wait, as if trying to convince the world that they are not actually parked. By the time little Jimmy reaches the car, his asthma is so bad from walking through the cloud of noxious fumes pumped out by the stationary traffic he can barely breathe.
‘Just as well I pick him up in the car each day,’ thinks the parent. ‘With him wheezing like that, he would never be able to walk the half mile home.’
Then, there are the chicanes created by the parked cars. These turn a normal two lane road into a narrow lane, and the normal flow of traffic is funnelled into a contra-flow system. The result is another chance for the grim reaper to add to his collection, as oblivious kids run between the parked cars and straight into the path of the driver trying to squeeze between the parked 4×4 and the oncoming off-roader.
Child safety is like the gun control argument. People say the world is a dangerous place, so they will get a gun to make it safer. Parents think that the journey to school is so dangerous because of the traffic, that they need to drive the kids to make it safer. And yet, despite the zigzags painted on the road, the double yellow lines, and the road signs warning drivers to the dangers of driving near a school, it is largely the concerned parents who are causing the dangers.
Maybe, if everyone followed Shaz’s example, the kids would be safer. There would be fewer kiddie crushers on the road, the kids would be healthier because of the exercise they would get, and the parents might find a bargain on a Facebook buy and sell group.