Friday, 11 September 2009

The road outside our house

A sobering start to our day. Just as everyone was struggling out of bed (well, I was struggling out of bed, the boys were bouncing around full of the joys of a brand new day with far too much energy for my ever so slightly feeling the effects of a glass of wine too many the previous evening head) we heard shouts coming from the road outside. I looked out of the window and realised that a woman had been hit by a car. People were running to help, the driver of the car was out of his car looking shocked and slightly hysterical. An ambulance arrived in minutes, closely followed by the police and she was whisked off to the hospital, to be treated for a broken shoulder and leg. The police remained for several hours carefully photographing all aspects of the accident, circling relevant marks with chalk, placing numbered placards everywhere and interviewing witnesses.

As it turns out, she was walking to work and had just stepped off the pavement, into the path of the car. The car had not been travelling fast, there was no screeching to a halt, no skid marks on the road. She was lucky, we might live in a residential area, but the road by our house is surprisingly smooth and cars drive up it at an inappropriate speed. This being a residential area there are always children playing on the road somewhere. It is one of the things that I love about living here. The kids are outside, making up games with chalk on the road, drawing out elaborate courts for games to play with bottle tops. The girls are often to be seen with long pieces of elastic stretched between themselves playing elaborate games that the boys look at with confusion, as if the girls are practicing an advanced form of black magic. The boys go up and down on their bikes practicing wheelies and trying to look cool. It is exactly how children ought to be spending their time. It is exactly how I would want my kids to be spending their time when they are a few years older.

But this accident has really shaken me up. I grew up in London, so am no stranger to cars travelling too fast on the roads. But at least in London the pavements are wide enough to walk on. Here, the pavement which this woman stepped off is narrow, gravelled and difficult to walk along. Whenever I try to walk along it, I normally end up stepping off it and walking on the road. And I usually have 2 small children, a couple of scooters, some shopping and a dog to try and keep under control whilst I do so. The other day, I took my eye off Luke for all of 1 second and he ran across the road for no reason whatsoever. This is the first time he had ever done something like that. Usually he is pretty road aware, but for some reason this time, he simply took off. There was a car coming as well, fortunately travelling slowly and paying attention, so was able to give the rampaging 2 year old plenty of room.

I keep thinking of this woman, who was just walking to work one Thursday morning and who ended up in hospital with some fairly serious and very painful injuries. And all I can think is There, but for the grace of God, go I. And I draw my boys in towards me, kiss their heads and hold them tight.


whistlejacket said...

Oh no that must have shaken you up a lot. Like you, I think my eldest is quite sensible around roads but children are distracted so easily that it doesn't take much for them to put themselves in danger. Very stressful when you're trying to manage two of them, a dog and shopping!

I like to think they'll be able to play out in the street like we all did as children but sadly there are many more cars around these days. And people drive so fast, even in small residential roads. We share a drive with our (childless) neighbours and each morning our neighbour reverses down it at huge speed. There are lots of children about but I don't think he gives it any thought. One day I'm going to have to speak to him... eek.

Mwa said...

Do you not find, though, that the people are so used to people being all over the road that they are more careful? I always find traffic in the UK the scariest, because no one expects anyone to walk in the road. And then I'm being Belgian and I nearly get hit.

London City Mum said...

Puts your heart in your mouth when things like this happen - just a little too close to home. Know the feeling well wrt cars driving too fast on roads where children (just 9 between us and our immediate neighbours) play freely. And we live in a private residence on a cul-de-sac!

Something to do with SUV/4WD and the sense of invincibility here in the UK (mind you, other countries are much the same). We have had numerous altercations with such drivers... and were told by one (woman) that our kids were 'totally out of control'. What? They were walking on the footpath when she crossed in front of them at 30mph to enter a driveway! Amazing logic.

We are paranoid with the kids about road awareness, but then they catch you totally off guard sometimes.

Keep safe xx

Teacher Mommy said...

That is so scary. I remember when I was trying to get the boys into the car and The Widget ran out into the road--right in front of a van. Who, THANK GOD, was also travelling slowly and saw him. What was even worse is that I didn't even realize what had happened until the driver of the van called out the window to me.

There are times when I question whether they will survive my parenting.

Island Mum of 2 (or 3 if you count their Dad!) said...

It makes one's blood run cold, doesn't it, imagining the many frighteningly possible ways one's children could come to a sticky end?

As we live not only by a busy road (next to a chain ferry with cars driving on/off every 10 minutes, albeit relatively slowly) but also right by the water, I constantly torture myself with thoughts of how a second's carelessness on my part could lead to their demise. One big factor in me wanting to move house asap!

On a more positive note, thanks to immunisations and antibiotics, at least we don't have to worry so much about the once commonplace but ghastly diseases that struck so many children in the not so distant past...

Iota said...

Oh, yes, how scary.

Love your description of the girls elastic skipping being like incomprehensible black magic to the boys.

Sandy Calico said...

Great post. How sobering. Makes me want to wrap my boys up in cotton wool and never let them leave the house, but I know that won't do them any good.

Linda said...

Sorry to hear you have been shaken up by this. My girls are at an age where I was walking to school. They are in the last year of primary and I really think I should let them. I read somewhere about an inate sense of danger and we are all worrying too much That's too easy to say! I have reported on too many family tragedies. Thanks for another thoughtful and eminently readable post!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

WJ - it did rather. I'm all for sleeping policemen. Anything to force people to slow down. I don't think people mean to drive dangerously, but before you have kids you just don't realise how unroad aware they can be!

Mwa - possibly. But there are some terrible drivers here, real boy racers. They are the scary ones. They will, and do, get themselves killed on a regular basis.

LCM - People don't like having it pointed out that they are driving thoughtlessly, but I think (hope!) they do think about it and will moderate their driving in the future. It is all about selfishness.

TM - trying to get small children into a car on a busy road is a nightmare. THANK GOD for child locks in cars.

IM2(3) - We can only worry, we are parents. You are right about the diseases though, I was thinking the other day how did people cope before Calpol (let alone immunisations!).

Iota - Sadly for me, that description is actually my brothers who used it once to describe the cats cradle game I used to play with my friends.

SC - I know how you feel! Although knowing them, my boys would probably fashion a rope out of the cotton wool and use it to lasso dangerous things put high above their reach.

Linda - I keep remembering at what age I used to do things. Aged 7 we were living in Washington DC and my brother (then aged 5) and I used to walk home a mile on our own. Mum was freaking about it but was what all the other kids did. Guess there's an element of safety in numbers and they had a lot of stationed at various roads to help the younger children across.

Anonymous said...

Try being the girl who hits a kid! At this point, I think I'll never be let out of Sudan...