I had a scare a couple of weeks ago. I was driving my van down my street, and as I came around a small curve, a young girl of about 10 was riding her bike straight towards me. I stopped, thinking that she would look up and get herself back up on the sidewalk. But she never looked up. Her eyes were cast down, and she was texting on her cell phone.
When I realized that she was going to run right into the front of my van, I honked my horn. The sound startled her enough so that she looked up just in time, and she swerved around me. And no, she was not wearing a helmet.
Had she hit me, even though I had stopped, she would have suffered a good deal of injury. Had she been heading toward someone who may have been distracted, or driving at a faster rate of speed, she could have been killed.
I couldn’t shake that thought. We have a number of residents who drive far faster than they should on our street, given that it is a very narrow street, and is shared by bicycles and children.
I knew where this little girl lived, but I did not know her parents. I debated going to her house and speaking with her parents. If it were my daughter, I would want to know. But, you just never know how something like that is going to be received.
A few days later, the little girl was playing outside at a neighbor’s house, a few houses down from us. I walked down and introduced myself to her. She knew immediately who I was, and that I was the lady in the van. I asked if I could speak to her, and she said yes. And I held her hand and talked to her about how dangerous the situation was that she placed herself in. I knew that the experience had impacted her, by the look of fear on her face when I honked my horn. She was very polite and remorseful, and I felt like I had gotten through to her. A few feet away, some of her little friends overheard our conversation, and I directed a brief “please don’t text while riding your bikes” speech. In my nicest mom voice. Which by the way, is not the voice that I would have used if I were giving the same speech to my own children.
I went back home feeling that I had done some good.
But then a few days ago, when I was leaving the house to go out, I saw another little 10 year old girl riding her bike down the street. This was one of the children that had overheard my texting speech. She was chatting on her cell phone, driving in the middle of the road, then up on the sidewalk, then back to the middle of the road. And then she stopped talking, looked down at her phone, and began texting.
I am a loud proponent of banning texting and even cell phone usage while driving an automobile. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would be an issue with children riding their bikes.
This is not going to be a judgment against parents that allow their children to carry cell phones. I know there are circumstances that call for it, I get that. But I wonder if these parents understand the danger that their children are putting themselves into by allowing them to carry cell phones while they are out riding their bikes.
I now regret my decision not to go down and speak to the first little girl’s parents. I’m going to give the moms and dads the benefit of the doubt, and believe that they have no idea their children are putting themselves in harms way.
But you can bet that I’m going to be taking to my keyboard to get the word out. Here, and in my neighborhood.
Have you seen anything similar in your neighborhood? I fear that I won’t hear anything in the media, until something tragic occurs.
Please. If your children carry cell phones, talk to them about the dangers of texting and driving.