“Stop!” my wife yelled at me from where she stood beside the car last week.
I stopped rolling back out the drive and two women and a kid stepped out from behind the bushes trotted across our driveway and continued on their way. I say behind the bushes, but they were on the other side of the fence just walking past.
We live on a corner block with a driveway on each street and I was backing our car out of the top driveway onto the busier of the two roads. We’ve always had foot traffic past our house, being on the way to a couple of local schools, but since council has (very excellently) put in a footpath the traffic has increased tenfold, due in part to the people who were walking on the grass on the other side of the road now walking on the nice path on this side, but also because a lot more people are using the footpath to exercise.
Which is all wonderful.
But it has presented a bit of a problem.
“I saw them,” I lied to my wife. Given my slow speed and the fact I was looking in the mirrors they were in no danger, I’m sure, but because of the the trees next to our driveway I wouldn’t have seen them until the last moment. More concerning for me in this instance was the fact that the last thing I need is to undermine my wife’s confidence in my driving. I’ve undermined her confidence in most everything else I do and if I lose this I’m down to making toast.
From time to time you read headlines about some poor kid being run over by their parents in their driveway and it never fails to get me clenching my teeth and blinking the water out of my eyes. Never. I swear even just typing that sentence got me grinding my teeth and the laptop screen went blurry.
I remember a few years ago a footballer reversing over his son (who lived, thank goodness) and I recall watching the news and asking myself, how could I live with something like that? How do you look at your partner? Your other kids? I mean, no one does this thing on purpose and I know it’s an accident in the most tragic sense of the word, but when you’re emotionally charged with protecting your kids from harm, how could you get over something like that?
I never, ever want to find out.
As my father told me growing up, it only takes a second to do something you’ll regret for the rest of your life. I’ve clicked on some Youtube videos about cute cats which have underlined the seriousness of that sort of thing – and if anyone has any suggestions on how to get the image of a cat peeing on a toilet out of my head I am all ears.
When we built the fence down near our bottom driveway we considered two options – take it to the boundary and give ourselves a bigger backyard or move the fence back a couple of meters and separate the car and driveway entirely from the yard. This decision was made after the footballer story on the news so the safety of our kids won out.
Transport for NSW and Driveway Safety have some excellent easy to remember advice when it comes to this sort of thing:
SUPERVISE children near vehicles
SEPARATE play areas from driveways
SEE where they are at all times
Obvious stuff, you might think, and yet on average two young children per year are killed in driveway incidents in NSW. Around 50 kids are seriously injured, or worse, in driveways across Australia every year, so it’s definitely worth thinking about for a few seconds. To help you, here’s a quick video by Scottie Cam to help you on your way to better driveway safety. Let’s get those numbers down to more acceptable nil accidents.
Get the idea? We have. Since those people jumped out of the bushes to frighten my wife, Tracey and I have paid ($325) for a reverse camera to be installed in our car. This is a car which is built for a bigger family, or a smallish football team. It seats eight comfortably and is a joy to drive, but it does make a mockery of the distance between the two white lines they expect customers to park in at supermarkets, and sometimes the front of the car goes through a green light but by the time the back end gets through the intersection it’s red.
It’s a big car. Certainly bigger than it looks.
Which means, I’m afraid, it’s a bigger problem when it comes to knowing what’s going on around you when you’re reversing.
The reversing camera doesn’t solve all the problems – there’s no substitute for looking behind your vehicle and knowing where your kids are before you even get in the driver’s seat, let alone keeping focused and using your mirrors when the car starts to move.
Which is why I also trimmed the bushes around the top driveway to give a better front seat view of what’s happening on the footpath – not only do I need to ensure the safety of our own kids but other people’s as well – because, let’s face it, all it takes is one close call and my license will be revoked.
Not by the police. By Tracey.
You aren’t married to someone for 14 years without learning to read their body language and pick up on subtle hints, so I could sort of tell she didn’t believe me when I said I’d seen those people because she said, “‘The hell you did!”
I really don’t want to be relegated to the toaster. I hate scraping off the charcoal.
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It really does make a difference Thanks.
“Raising a family on little more than laughs”