Schools Open Today — A Reminder of the Harmful Legacy of Cars and Kids

Thanks to cars, children in New York are never really safe. Photo: Bess Adler
Thanks to cars, children in New York are never really safe. Photo: Bess Adler

I have two kids who went to New York City public schools. Every day they left the house was another day when I feared they would not come back.

I wasn’t afraid of school shootings or abductions. I was afraid of my neighbors in their cars.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for school-age children in this country. Yet America remains in a parasitic relationship with the automobile: we aide and abet its use, even as cars cause tens of thousands of deaths every year and spew exhaust that is toxic to life on this planet.

Photo: Bess Adler
Photo: Bess Adler

In New York City, it’s a constant problem, of course — last year more than 200 people were killed — and tens of thousands injured — by drivers. Worse, millions of children in this city never grow up truly free — free to play in the street, free to chase a long fly ball, free to walk their dogs, free to say, “Hey, Dad, I’m running to the playground to meet my friends.”

In other words, they’re never free to be kids.

Several city agencies are working on the problem — but the Department of Education seems to have completely ignored its responsibility to the most vulnerable.

We have repeatedly asked the agency about the 3,000 crashes that school bus drivers caused over the last four years. We have asked about school bus driver records. We have asked about how drivers are vetted. We have asked why more streets in front of public schools aren’t closed to cars, at least during school hours. We have asked by 50,000 teachers get free parking at school every day, a perk that encourages the exact type of commute that kills kids.

None of our questions gets answered. It simply appears that the Department of Education is not a Vision Zero partner of the Department of Transportation.

So as children return to school today, we asked top New York City photographer Bess Adler to hit the streets for a few days and offer the following slideshows to remind parents what their children are up against every day — and to remember that cars are killing our children and stealing their childhoods.

Let’s stop the madness. We hope Bess Adler’s horrifying photos will help.

Inches from injury

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The danger is often unseen

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Kids have no room to roam

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Our culture itself is sick

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Fighting for the Right to Bike to School

A couple of stories we’ve linked from headlines this week point to the continuation of a disturbing trend: families whose parents are questioned, criticized and even intimidated for encouraging their kids to bike or walk to school.  Adam Marino: middle-schooler; revolutionary. In Saratoga Springs, reports The Saratogian, controversy has erupted over the Marino family’s desire […]