Today I was walking out of a Spencer business with my three-year-old holding my hand. As we left the store, a large crew cab truck looked like they were going to pull up in front. I told my daughter that we had to stop and see what the truck was doing before we proceeded into the parking lot. The truck did in fact pull up, and I made eye contact with the female passenger and the male driver. The woman began to get out of the truck, so my daughter and I headed to our car. I was in mid-step from being in front of the truck when it took off to find a parking spot. The woman who had just exited the vehicle looked on with alarm. My child and I had literally been a couple of inches from being run over by that truck. The driver was not on a cell phone, texting, changing the radio station or anything like that. He just didn't bother to look around before driving away.
I lived in a major city on the west coast for about twelve years after graduating from high school. I always hear people talk about those crazy city drivers, but I never had as many near accidents as both a driver and a pedestrian in my years there as I have in my four years since my return to Spencer. In the city, we HAD to be aware of our surroundings, as there were more cars, people, bicycles, and everything else to watch out for. Drivers here blow through stop signs, crosswalks, red lights, and through parking lots without even bothering to look. Shortly after arriving in Spencer, somebody backed out of a driveway right into my car. They claimed that they did not see me, despite my car being a brilliant shade of orange. So many times I've had to grab my child, dogs, or both and jump back up onto the curb because somebody is blowing a red light or stop sign, or pulling into the crosswalk. Then if you are lucky, you will be acknowledged with a smile and a wave. "So sorry I nearly killed or crippled you! Hope your day is blessed!"
The March 2011 issue of Parents magazine has an article called The Most Dangerous Drivers. In the article, the author sites a study by Safe Kids USA, where researchers watched more than 40,000 vehicles driven by both parents and nonparents in school zones. One of the most disturbing things noted was that the bigger and more potentially dangerous the vehicle, the more likely the driver was to have higher distraction scores. I guess if YOU feel safe, there is no reason to look around you and see what you might be running into.
As I stood dazed in the parking lot, I counted my lucky stars that my child and I were unhurt and in one piece. For a moment I wondered why I even bother teaching her not to run out into the parking lot, and to look both ways before stepping out. Perhaps her chances of survival will be greater if she is moving faster and more erratically. But alas, I will be a sensible parent and teach her what I should, and hope that the drivers around her do what they are supposed to do. I can see why fewer kids walk to school these days.
Please, just look where you are going when you are behind the wheel.