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Editorial: Sliding into traffic? Please, no.

Just today, a reader sent me a link to a news item about a young person in Indiana, USA, killed while playing in the snow – sliding down a steep, snow-covered street, right into the path of a motorist. And now dead.

The reader had seen a youth in Rossland sliding down one of our steep streets, and barely stopping before reaching the traffic lanes on Thompson Avenue. He was concerned, and said that he had nearly stopped to speak to the child, but continued on his way instead. He reported the incident to his own father, who told him that a Rossland child had been killed that way in the past. 

Since that event, he has been haunted by what could happen if a child slides a little further sometime, and ends up hit by a car, especially one of the many that habitually exceed our 30 km/hr speed limit.

Yes, the speed of the vehicle makes a huge difference in whether a child or other person, struck by the vehicle, is likely to be killed. A vehicle travelling at 50 km/hr is eight times as likely to kill any person it hits as a car travelling 30 km/hr.

The speed also makes a huge difference in how quickly a vehicle can stop if, for instance, a foolish child on a sled suddenly zooms out into the roadway immediately ahead of the vehicle.

There are messages in these events in Indiana and Rossland for kids, parents, and drivers.  I’m deeply grateful that this article is not a report on a child’s tragic death beneath the wheels of a speeding car, and hopeful that we can all cooperate to prevent any such things from happening, by being a little less self-absorbed, a little more mindful of our surroundings, a little more cautious and considerate.

Kids: find a safer place to slide on your sled, chunk of plastic, or whatever other slippery item you use to whiz down a snowy slope. Don’t use streets; you could get killed or permanently disabled, and trust me – you wouldn’t like that at all. It’s not as if Rossland is short of hills covered with snow. Please find hills that don't end in traffic.

Parents: don’t let your kids slide down the streets; it’s really very dangerous. Too many cars drive too fast, and research has shown that kids, especially those under the age of 11 or 12, aren’t able to judge speed and distance as well as adults. Even their own speed. Please take the trouble to educate first yourself, then your children, about being safer around traffic. (Don’t be like that mother I saw recently in downtown Rossland a couple of weeks ago who was apparently teaching her young child that it’s OK to jaywalk. It isn’t.)    

 Drivers:  slow down. Rossland is not a very big place, and it doesn’t take much longer at all to get anywhere in Rossland travelling at 30 km/hr. Speeding doesn’t gain you much time, but it greatly increases your risk of injuring or killing someone – and being liable for it because you were speeding. Oh, and while we’re at it, turn off your phone while driving. If you must use it, pull over and park first.  

Here are a few facts and statistics to mull over.  They’re taken from the Safe Kids Canada Child Pedestrian Injuries Report, 2007 – 2008.

  • Child pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children aged 14 and younger.
  • Children aged 10 to 14 years have the highest risk of pedestrian injuries and deaths.
  • When children are struck by cars, their injuries are often life-threatening or cause permanent damage.
  • Reducing vehicle speed has been proven to be effective in preventing crashes and reducing the severity of injuries.
  • Wider roads tend to encourage speeding, but building narrower roads can support speed reduction.

So, drivers, instead of whining about our new, narrower roads, just slow down. Or better yet, take up walking around town more. Slippery?  Use urban crampons. They’re cheaper than a tank of gas.