Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Car Culture

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

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 New York City

Monday’s Headlines: Who’s a Good Boy Edition

Too many of our four-legged family members are being killed by car drivers. Plus other news.

July 15, 2024

Delivery Worker Minimum Wage Shows Promise … For Some, Data Shows

New data from the city's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection shows minimum wage is bringing order to a previously wild industry.

July 15, 2024

SUV Driver Kills Girl, 3, in Harlem, Wounds Mom And Young Brothers

The girl's death marks another grim entry into a crisis of pedestrian traffic deaths this year.

July 12, 2024

Moped and E-Bike Safety Legislation Becomes State Law

Retailers must register mopeds at the point of sale, in addition to giving new owners safety information, under new legislation signed by Gov. Hochul on Thursday.

July 12, 2024

Roadway Dining May See Dramatic Decline Under Eric Adams As Deadline Looms

Fewer than two dozen restaurants are in the pipeline for roadside seating, according to public records.

July 12, 2024
See all posts