Friday, 15 August 2014

Confessions of the car dependent family

Listening to the radio discussing the continuous rise of car journeys and the reasons for this, I felt rather caught out. In that life that is but a distant and faint memory, where I was childfree, almost all journeys in the city were done by bike. I'd cycle to commute, to go shopping, to go out at night. It was so convenient, and yes, so cheap. I'd know exactly by the minute how long it would take me from my front door to my work, and it was faster than any other form of transport.

Fast forward 8 years, from the point where I was hit by a bus when 16 weeks pregnant (no damage done other than total panic and deciding I couldn't continue commuting by bike), I'm one of those infamous people who are totally dependent on the car. I leave in the morning at 7.50am to get Cubling to school by 8am for breakfast club, than 3 miles down the road to Snowflake's nursery (8.30am), which is about a mile from my work, where I arrive at 8.45am. I have to leave at 4.45pm as my nursery hours only extend to 5pm, back to after school care and home. We're always in a rush, I'm always worried I'm running late for work or nursery, but I've long been resigned to the fact that once in the car, it's outwith my control, so I don't tend to get stressed about while driving. Then there's shopping: shopping for 4 in a busy week juggling work and family always translates to one big shop which necessitates a car boot and attached motor.

At the weekend, there's swimming classes to get to, and trips to the family to be made. The pool (thanks to the closure of our local one 13 years ago) is too far for Cubling to cycle to, and the extended family is definitely a car journey away too. Even on my day off, we attend a play group which I can only get to on time after school drop off if I take the car.

It's not for willingness of leaving the car. I know that my main carbon footprint is due to transport and I probably went grey over trying to figure out if and how I could live without a car. I can't, unless I become a stay at home mum, and even then we'd still need it here and there.

So my kids are in the car a lot, too much even. Since we can't change this at the moment, at least we can make it into an opportunity to make the children aware of the rules of the road. We are both cautious drivers, but it can get a little bit annoying if the occasional driver in another car isn't. To be fair, I think most drivers around here are courteous and decent, it's only as a cyclist that I've been subject to irrational abuse, but not really as a fellow car driver. As with everything, I try to be a good role model too, and often explain things about driving and taking care on the road to the children while we're in the car, because kids pick up stuff they see so quickly.

The Scottish Government and Road Safety Scotland has launched the Kids in the Car campaign to raise awareness of how important it is that parents and carers are a good role model when children are in the car, to keep everyone safe but also to teach them good driving habits as early as possible. Calm driving, not using mobile phones, clearly no drink driving, always using seat belts, not jumping red lights, and teaching the kids how important it is that the driver needs to focus on the traffic are the golden rules, and it's amazing how the kids pick this up. Even Snowflake at 3 knows that she needs to wait for us to stop at a red light before I can change the CD or pick something up that she dropped. And no question that her doll gets strapped in the doll's car seat too.

The campaign raises awareness of the great influence we as parents have on our kids in the car, and the opportunity for role modelling safe and good driving practice. It's still the case that there are far too many road accidents young children or young drivers are killed or seriously injured. Definitely don't miss out on watching the video.

You can also take the parent promise and complete a questionnaire. Why not get the children involved by asking them to draw a picture of an adult driving and then upload it on to the gallery section of the website? You can also join the discussion at #KidsintheCar or visit the facebook page.

1 comment:

kenanddot said...

Oh gosh, I wish we weren't so car-dependent, but somehow everything we do seems to involve it. It would help if either of my boys could ride a bike, but they still can't (Hugh had almost got the hang of it earlier this year but we seem to have let it slide again. He struggles with physical skills of that sort and is never keen to practice).

I just hope that in a few years we can go back to cycling and walking a lot more. But busy modern schedules do make it hard.

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