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Column: Children can’t properly judge traffic conditions
by Charlie Sewell
Guest Columnist
April 09, 2014 03:22 PM | 3450 views | 0 0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Charlie Sewell
Charlie Sewell
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Driving can be a game of cat and mouse. A driver is the cat in the car, and the mouse is a child on a bike. A cat will often toy with a mouse before killing it. Drivers can’t afford to toy with the probability that children on bicycles scurry and change directions unexpectedly.

Countless parents assume their children pay attention while biking, but scores of children ages 14 and under die in bicycle/car-related crashes each year. Children are exposed to traffic dangers beyond their comprehension as well as their physical and sensory abilities. This problem is aggravated when parents overestimate their child’s skills to deal with traffic.

A “Share the road” sign is usually meant to increase drivers’ awareness of bicycles. When it comes to children on bicycles, perhaps the sign should say, “CAUTION — children carelessly crossing.” The majority of children’s bicycle-related accidents happen because the child rides into the street without stopping, runs a stop sign, swerves into traffic or rides against traffic flow. Bicycle riders are supposed to ride in the same direction as other traffic, not in the opposite direction. Children on bicycles, however, are prone to use any portion of the road at any moment.

The typical child’s bicycle crash with a car happens within a mile from home and 60 percent occur on minor roads. Children are simply not capable of proper judgment in determining traffic conditions.

A public service announcement from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s asked the question, “Do you know where your children are?” An appropriate addendum to that question could be, “Do you know where your children are looking?” Children are generally not in sync with reality and can easily get tunnel vision.

More than 62 percent of bicycle fatalities are due to head injuries. The younger the cyclist, the more likely a person is to die because of that injury. Buying an inexpensive bicycle helmet for a child is a step in the right direction. Making the child wear it is a leap toward saving his/her life. It is also Georgia law for anyone under the age of sixteen to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle on a public road, sidewalk or bike path.

Safe Kids Cobb County sponsors a bike helmet distribution program for children in need. For those who qualify, Safe Kids Cobb County will provide a helmet fitting, educational session and a free bike helmet. You can call (770) 793-7185 for more information about this program.

“Cat and mouse game” is an idiom from 1675 that can colloquially mean the advantage often shifts between the contestants. There is no contest between the damaging power of a moving car and the vulnerable body of a child on a bicycle and it certainly isn’t a game.

Seeing a child grow up may be sad and even dreadful, but not seeing that child grow up would be dark, draining and devastating. On behalf of the naive parents who assume their child has traffic shrewdness, drivers must give due diligence to the erratic bicycling habits of children. If you drive as if your own child is riding a bicycle, the hazard expected is half prevented.

Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police.
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