Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Cars

What’s Really Dangerous for Kids? Hint: It Has Four Wheels and a Tailpipe.

11:17 AM EDT on May 5, 2009

2822848009_98b4623864_m.jpgPhoto by pawpaw67 via Flickr.

When she wrote a column for the New York Sun last year about letting her nine-year-old ride the subway on his own, Lenore Skenazy was pilloried by many as an irresponsible mom. She stuck to her guns, though, and started a blog dedicated to "sane parenting", advocating the idea that we are over-sheltering our children from infinitesimal threats such as stranger abduction. According to Skenazy, the kind of independence represented by that subway trip is necessary and healthy for children -- and their parents as well.

Now she's making the publicity rounds promoting her book, Free-Range Kids. In a recent interview with Salon, she pointed out that  while many American parents are terrified to let their children walk a few blocks or ride public transit, they think nothing of driving them everywhere -- even though car crashes are the leading cause of death for children in the US:

Skenazy: If you don't want to have your child in any kind of danger, you really can't do anything. You certainly couldn't drive them in a car, because that's the No. 1 way kids die, as passengers in car accidents.

Salon: Rationally, why aren't cars the bogeyman instead of stranger abduction?

Skenazy: It would change our entire lifestyle if we couldn't drive our kids in a car, and it's a danger that we just willingly accept without examining it too much, because we know that the chances are very slim that we're going to have a fatal car accident. But the chances are 40 times slimmer that your kid walking to school, whether or not she's the only one, is going to be hurt by a stranger.

Skenazy's answer gets to the heart of why it is so hard for people to accept the many ways in which automobiles hurt everyone in society, perhaps especially children -- through crashes, through polluting the air, through promoting obesity. We can imagine a life in which our children are not allowed to play outdoors, walk to a friend's house or spend any time unsupervised. But we just can't imagine life without cars.

Or can we?

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Tuesday’s Headlines Look for a Home

The federal government could help families save money by providing more funding for housing near transit.

March 5, 2024

All The Ways That Car Domination Harms Our Communities (Well, Almost All…)

A new study seeks to quantify everything car culture costs us. Yet there are still more ways that auto-centrism hurts us all.

March 5, 2024

California Launches New Transportation Equity Tool

The Transportation Equity Index maps out crash rates and creates a new way to map out multimodal access.

March 4, 2024

Understanding Car Culture ‘Denialism’ Can Help Safety Advocates Respond

Opponents of change sow confusion with fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations (moving goalposts), conspiracy theories, and selectivity (cherry picking). We can fight back.

March 4, 2024

PROWAG Can Make Cities More Accessible — So Here’s What You Need to Know

America has waited more than 12 years for the Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines to be implemented. Here's why they matter.

March 4, 2024
See all posts