school zoneThat's it. My kid is never walking herself home from the bus stop. You hear me? Never. I will drive her until the day she graduates. And before you tell me I'm a fraidy cat, irrational helicopter parent, here's a horror story for you.

Marcela Meadows was just being a responsible mom, walking her 7-year-old to school in Linden, New Jersey. It's not much different from what I do every afternoon, walking my daughter home from her bus stop so we can get a little exercise and enjoy the sunshine. We usually talk about her day; it's a great bonding time. But Meadows' mother/son bonding time ended when a driver failed to stop at the crosswalk and yield to the pedestrians.

The rock star mom had seconds to act. She threw her son out of the way and threw herself in front of the car. Can you imagine? Scratch that. I don't want to imagine.

Meadows reportedly suffered injuries that were -- fortunately -- not life threatening, and her little boy is fine. Thank heavens! But MyCentralJersey.com reports the driver, a man named Shan Mack, isn't just your average guy charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian. Last fall, Mack's 8-year-old son was hit by a car driven by a mom from the same town. The little boy wasn't so lucky. He died from his injuries. So sad.

Put the two families' troubles together, and that's when I start thinking that crazy "no, I won't let my kid walk on a roadside" business. Maybe I'm overreacting. A bit? A lot?

But while people tend to make a huge deal out of kids being picked up by a pedophile when they're walking to or from school, it's a fact that's not borne out by statistics. The vast number of missing kids are abducted by a known quantity, usually someone in their family.

It's the cars that scare the pants off of me because the traffic danger statistics are very real. And as Meadows' case shows, it can happen even when their parents are right there. According to the CDC:

A national Safe Kids Campaign survey found 2/3 of drivers exceeded the posted speed limit in school zones during the 30-minute period before and after school. (National Safe Kids Campaign, 2002)

A national observational survey found that many motorists at intersections in school zones and residential neighborhoods violated stop signs (pedestrian injury fact sheet, 2004): 45% by not coming to a complete stop, 37% by rolling through, 7% by not even slowing down.

We live in a society where there are a lot more cars on the road than there were during our childhoods. More cars mean more accidents. More accidents mean more kids at risk. And short of jumping in front of a car like Marcela Meadows did, there isn't much we can do to protect our kids besides teaching them to be careful and crossing our fingers.

We have to trust fate. So the truth is, my kid will likely walk home from the bus stop one day, if only because I'll get sick of her whining that I'm always there with the car. But that doesn't make me any less nervous about the day it will come.

Do you worry about your kids walking to and from school? Is it abduction or an accident that scares you?

 

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