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8 December, 2004

School run 'costs lives'

And this is news?

UK insurance firm MORE TH>N...

... states that motor accidents at peak times cause 7,000 fatalities and injuries each year, including the deaths of 200 children. The insurance firm estimates that around 12 per cent of all cars on the road during rush hour are taking children to school.
In the past ten years, school runs have increased by 20 per cent, with the number of pupils walking to school falling by 14 per cent.
MORE TH>N claims that 190 deaths could be avoided each year if the number of school runs was reduced by 10 per cent, and will be passing its findings on to the Department of Transport.

However, SafeSpeed, a campaign group opposed to 'excessive' (there's no such thing) enforcement of speed limits claims that...

...official Department of Transport figures show that in total only 171 children were killed on the roads in 2003.
Oh, okay. Only 171 deaths. That's fine, then.

School runs are one of those things which contribute to a background level of annoyance in my daily life. From a purely selfish point of view, I suppose they increase traffic intensity at the time I'm cycling to work (and parents with children aren't at their most attentive to other road users), but I don't really have a problem with that.

My objection is the elevation of empty convenience over necessity. Don't get me wrong: there are valid reasons for taking some children to school by car, such as when a family lives a considerable distance from a rural village school, but these cases are a minority.
Otherwise, it's a mere convenience, a luxury, which can't be justified as sustainable in economic or environmental terms. Parents who nonetheless drive children to school exhibit an attitude of "I and my children are okay, **** you and yours."

Government proposals could stagger the start times of schools in the same locality, so that trips to one school no longer coincide with trips to another nearby, thereby cutting congestion. This might help the symptoms, but really isn't the solution.
Unless there's a concrete reason to travel by car, walk. No time in your busy, busy life to walk young children to school? Make time, or join a 'walking pool' to share the duty with other parents. If it's too far to walk (which, in urban/suburban areas, should only mean secondary schools, and older children don't need parental accompaniment), use a school bus.

Personally, I'd ban parking anywhere near schools, apart from designated drop-off/pick-up areas, for which I'd impose punitive charges, with exemption/rebates for those able to prove the school run is essential. By all means drive children to school if you really want to, but expect to pay a lot for the convenience.

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