Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Child Dies in Brooklyn Bus Accident

I am shaken and saddened yet again by an accident involving a small child and a school bus. A little boy in Boro Park, Brooklyn was killed by a school bus when he slipped on ice and fell underneath the rear wheels of a departing school bus.

This is not the first time I have read reports like this. Several years ago, a 14 year old girl was killed when a school bus backed up into her. In both cases, the bus drivers were unaware of what had occurred in the blind spot of their buses. I drove a very advanced rental car once that shuts off the radio whenever you pull into reverse and gives you a moving picture of the action in your blind spot. It might be a good investment for large vehicles.

I do not like accident coverage that intrudes upon private grief. In general, today's coverage of the Boro Park accident was sensitive in that respect. But I do feel that accidents should be analysed to provide information that could protect others. I have read, heard of and unfortunately seen a few accidents involving pedestrians and cars over the years. I feel that it is worthwhile to try to prevent anguish to others.

One toddler a few years ago had returned with his family from a country bungalow when he wandered into the street and was struck by a car. I have heard of other cases where children on vacation were killed while out of town. It seems that children become accustomed to local conditions and are unprepared for the hazards of a new location away from home. The little boy who was hit after a trip to the country was accustomed to a fenced in, car free enclosure. Coming back to the city, he was unprepared for cars being in the same space as pedestrians.

Sometimes the changes are more subtle. A child who is accustomed to living on a one way street might have a dangerous lack of familiarity with two way streets. In a new environment, it is a good idea to walk around with one's children and focus on the shifted safety rules of new surroundings.

Some dangers are more subtle. I am still haunted by the death of a 17 year old boy many years ago, a couple of days before he was to celebrate Christmas with his family. I stood at the scene a couple of hours later. A pencil broken to bits testified mutely to the impact of the crash. I looked up the hill. A ripple in the incline obscured cars so they could only be seen at the last second. The spot where the boy crossed was a death trap. He could not see the car that hit him until the last minute. Of all the spots to cross the street, it was among the most dangerous. It was a terrible misfortune for him, his family and the driver.

The worst sort of hazard is jaywalking in the middle of the street from between two parked cars. It can thrust a driver and pedestrian into the center stage of a tragedy in seconds. Crossing outside a crosswalk carries with it a multitude of hazards.

Pedestrians in dark clothing can look like shadows until it is too late to stop for them. Wearing a reflective strip is a very good idea. A general mentality of being aware how one appears to drivers is also a good idea.

I think that children should take a modified driver's education class. Even a seven year old should be taught in school how he or she appears to a driver. They should be made aware that buses, trucks and even cars have blind spots. There should be discussions of city, suburban and country pitfalls. Children should be asked if they have been in such surroundings. There should be discussions of safety issues peculiar to particular environments.

Bus matrons might also prevent some tragedies. But educating a child to see the street as drivers see it could save some lives. My son told me a story of a bus driver who used to count the kids at each stop twice. He would count them once at the bus stop and yet again after they boarded. One time he realised he was one kid short. He went outside to check up on the missing boy. The boy had dropped his snack under the bus and went under the bus to retrieve it. The beauty of the story was that it never became a story.

My heart goes out to the family that lost their child today. Stories of accidents sadden me when I read of them. Studying such misfortunes to spare others heartache could save lives all across America. I believe that it also provides benefit to the souls of the deceased. Discussing accidents with one's children and what can be learned from them is a beneficial practice. There is a lot of news that provides no practical benefit. But news about accidents can if properly presented, save lives. That is how such stories should be presented. Let us do what we can to make such sad news a rarity in our time.

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