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The day I accidentally killed a little boy (bbc.co.uk)
573 points by sjcsjc 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 654 comments

Ever since I became a father (2 months ago), I've been seeing the world as a dangerous and an ugly place. This is confounded with the fact that, a month ago, I came to find out that my brother was bullied in HS and was never the same.

My brother has been out of high school for about 9 years now, but It took me 6 whole years to consider the possibility that something was wrong. I was in undergrad and focused on my studies, and then moved to NYC, so my time wasn't really spent at home with my brother, which should never be an excuse when it comes to family. But I let it be. Until my child was born.

9 years ago, my brother dropped out of high school and started seeing a therapist with the help and support of my dad. Both of them hid this from me until a month ago. The details of his high school days weren't revealed, but my brother has spent 9 full years dreading human interaction. I scolded him a year ago for not wanting to come to my wedding, and a month ago, begged him to come celebrate Christmas with my in-laws so that he can meet his nephew. He didn't end up coming, and that's when my dad finally revealed the details of the past 9 years.

It doesn't have to come to death to point out our primal fears as fathers. I used to be ambitious for the sake of being ambitious, but the arrival of my son, confounded with the revelation of my brother, has lead to a change in perspective. Everything can change in an instant, and contrary to the popular opinions of HN, the largest changes in our lives are beyond our control. The utter powerlessness of not being able to rewind to 9 years ago to be there for my brother gets at me. As does my fear and uncertainty of the life my son will be subjected to.

Hi, please don't take this the wrong way, but as a father and stepfather to 4, I find this so sad. Have you considered therapy? It may help with this anxiety so that you can learn to let go a little and enjoy the ride. I know this is just a single comment you made on a website, but if this response of anxiety and fear really your view on raising your child at the point of 2 months experience, I can tell you it only gets more challenging as they grow. Good luck to you and your family.

Some general advice to fight the pressure to be a perfect parent to a perfect child -

1. Forget the term "playdate". Don't schedule your kids' time to play with other children. I know it sounds strange, but adults used to have adult lives and people would just go visit each other. Their kids would play together while the adults did their thing.

2. Don't post pictures of your kid all the time on social media. No one really cares. Sorry. Send those pictures to your parents or friends directly. Better yet, go over to visit them and show them pictures in person. If you can, drop social media as much as you can stand, and just enjoy the fact that you love your child as much as every parent without turning parenting into social signalling and narcissistic indulgence.

3. Remember that your kids will leave you. They will go away to preschool, grade school, maybe college. And then one day, they will leave for the last time to set out on their own. Yes, you need to protect them, but if you are fearful and see the world as ugly, your kids will sense that growing up and most likely feel the same way. Do you want to send them out to the wide world with a viewpoint that the world is a scary place? Is the world a scary place? Why did the world turn ugly and scary when you had a child?

These are just my opinions, and there is no wrong way to do it. There's all sorts of ways of living. I just hope you find something that gives you some faith in your ability to raise a child that will turn out just fine. Because he or she will.

> 2. Don't post pictures of your kid all the time on social media. No one really cares. Sorry. Send those pictures to your parents or friends directly.

For many people, social media is how you send things to parents and friends. It's more straightforward than managing an email list, and needn't be any less real a connection.

I don't deny that ubiquitous social media is deforming our interactions, but I think a lot of people don't understand why Facebook et al got so popular in the first place. It's not just email for idiots. It's a tremendously useful tool for maintaining connections with a large and changing group.

Facebook is notorious for making those connections impossible when they are truly needed most. It's a marketing tool with aggressive filtering, not a family message board.

Agreed. I wish that I could get my family and close friends to join a Mattermost server I host, but so far, FB has a stranglehold on everyone it seems.

XMPP had federation. Sadly it didn't last long at the big providers.

Unfortunately, it's both. Wal-Mart is a good comparison--their policies are awful and they blight the communities around them, but they provide real value to individual users. It's how they maintain their hold.

Use whatever app or medium you choose, my advice was simply that sending directly to specific people is a better than flooding your IG or FB with photos of junior every day.

90% of my Instagram content is my kid. Though I use it as a way to record highlights for me and my wife, rather than for outside consumption.

I'm not sure why. My sister has an Instagram where she takes a couple of pictures of her kids a day, and has for the past five or six years, and I quite enjoy it. I know many of my family members do too. I visit a URL that just shows me her posts once a week or so, and just scroll to see what my niece and nephew have been up to.

How often do you call or visit your sister? Or your nephews? Just saying that I think we lost something when we could just become low-effort voyeurs.

How is emailing photos to specific people materially different than posting photos to a Facebook account followed by the same people? (Particularly if the account is otherwise private.)

How many people really care? Seriously? I love my kids as much as the next guy, but unless you are talking about a small group of people, yeah, in my opinion that amounts to narcissistic oversharing. I mean if you catch something hilarious, sure, share it. But it seems to me that those kind of posts should be few and far between. We've entered an age where voyuerism == friendship. No one really cares. Do you care about some high school pal's post of their kids activities?

I personally think there is a significant difference. The birthday messages I get on FB are worthless, but if someone sends me an email or a card that is worth something.

The connection via Facebook is so trivial and transient but it is better than no connection to people I'd have no contact with otherwise.

The people I email photos too will probably look at them a few times and may want to print them and will send an email response. Via FB it's all seen and then forgotten in 30s

I actually enjoy all the birthday messages I get on FB. Not because they say happy birthday, but because I actually respond to every single one of them, and catch up with people who actually made the slightest effort to wish me a happy birthday.

Fair point, I enjoy them too. But the amount of thought it takes to say Happy Birthday via Facebook is so trivial. FB reminds you, puts it at the top of your feed and reminds you the day after.

For me to send a birthday card to my friends I have a reminder that goes off a week before their birthday so that I find the time to go out get a relevant card. Then writing something of purpose inside the card and sending it with enough time to get there. So it's a week's worth of remembering their birthday vs the 30s that occurs in FB before reading all the other news.

So not worthless, but certainly worth less, to almost zero.

Yes,I have three kids, and I'm rarely on Facebook because I find it a toxic place.

But I was recently at a wedding, and was prompted to post a few photos up (more to share the photos with the bride/groom in a way that can also be seen by their friends too). It surprised me the number of messages I got saying how people loved seeing pictures of the kids and how they'd grown etc etc.

I don't have time to keep up with a lot of these old friends (many live far away) so I count this as a positive interaction on facebook.

I think that the lesson of the article is not that weirdos or strangers make the world a dangerous and ugly place, but that we, the regular people who vote for and move to areas with zoning densities that make public transit impractical, who commute long distances in cars, make the world a dangerous and ugly place.

Every time we get into a car, we are choosing to take a risk not only with our own life, but with the lives of everyone else near the road. I mean, we kind of choose that by continuing to live in areas where our density makes public transit less practical, but there's a lot to be said for just taking the responsibility of driving a lot more seriously, and treating driving as something risky, and taking steps to drive less.

I don't think this is the argument the author of the article was trying to send at all. This accident could have just as easily happened in a dense urban core, as it could have in suburbia.

The message was something else - sometimes, bad things just happen to people, and there is little you can do about it other than move on, and learn from the experiences.

The likelihood of death is proportional to speed [1], and the speed is lower in the urban cores. The math is super simple, and let's stop trying to justify bad urbanistic (essentially, political) decisions blaming it on the bad fate instead. [1] http://www.copenhagenize.com/2012/11/the-85th-percentile-fol...

Speed is the most quantifiable factor in a collision.

It is also very controllable.

That is why it gets the focus that it does.

The trouble is, it's easy to get distracted by speed as a coefficient in collision intensity, and not pay attention to what causes that collision in the first place.

People often think that because speed is such an important factor that they shouldn't drive faster to help traffic flow, or even that they should block faster traffic. Those actions are very likely to cause collisions, which is more important than the factor they are trying to minimize.

The likelihood of a collision causing death is just as proportional to mass. A semi hauling a trailer cannot stop in a short enough distance to prevent some collisions, and can be deadly even at very low speed. Even so, we realize the impracticality of reducing mass, so we focus on speed instead.

The real problem we need to focus on is collision prevention, not collision mitigation. Let's stop ignoring the reality of "bad fate", and do real work to minimize it's occurrence instead.

Reducing speeds is a form of collision prevention, is it not? A typical car can just about stop on a dime at 15mph, and a pedestrian has more time to react.

There's a whole slew of other pedestrian-friendly street design that we could & should adopt as well, but that doesn't make speed any less of a valid approach.

Speed, in of itself, is not dangerous. What is more dangerous on highways is differential speed. i.e. if you're driving 60 mph when the traffic around you is doing 80 mph, you're the problem. Probably exponentially so if you're driving slowly in the "fast" lane. While rarely enforced, most states in the US have laws that require you to pull to the right if you're impeding traffic (usually defined as holding up +2 vehicles behind you) - even if you're doing the speed limit. Yet, these laws are rarely enforced, just like "No Trucks Left 2 Lanes" is never enforced in & around Chicago, despite being posted every mile or so on I 294.

I'd wager, also, that speed itself is rarely the direct cause of an accident. High speed, though, will make an accident more severe. My bet is that distracted driving is the #1 cause of accidents. On my daily 2-hour round trip on Chicagoland highways, I usually see 4-6 accidents each involving >2 cars. The shear amount of people I see on their phones is staggering. Hard to tell if it's social media or texting, but you can always tell because their head is staring at their lap, or they're holding their phones at the top of the steering wheel for all to see. I also see people with their phones mounted on their dashes watching movies or TV shows. Playing with your phone while driving is far more dangerous than paying attention & speeding.

>What is more dangerous on highways is differential speed.

That sounds like an extraordinary statement to me, by which I mean that you need to support it.

First, let me make a distinction between crashes where drivers lose control after the collision, either due to shock to the driver or damage to the car, and crashes where they don't. In the latter case, I agree with you; a freeway scrape where both cars can slow in a controlled manner is probably pretty safe. And you are more likely to have that sort of accident when you are going at similar speeds in the same direction. But it's not a certain thing;

Cars are complex systems, and designed to operate without colliding with other vehicles. Cars are also much more likely to lose control when they are operating closer to their speed design envelope.

However, in the case where either the car or the driver is incapable of continuing to control the vehicle, at that point the car continues to hit other things until it's stopped (and is often hit then by traffic that isn't stopped.) At that point, total speed matters a lot.

There is just a whole lot more energy involved when you are moving fast than when you are moving slowly, and when energy is dispersed in an uncontrolled manner near people, those people tend to get hurt.

Speed, in of itself, is not dangerous

Certainly! Falling from great height isn't dangerous either, you know.

"It's not the pace of life I mind, it's the sudden stop at the end."

As long as you safely slow down before you approach the ground, it's not.

Reducing speeds in some places makes sense, but in county roads out in the country, it just creates a reason for bottleneck, which clumps traffic together, making collisions more likely.

For example, a 4-lane road that I drive on to get to the city will usually have two cars in the front driving practically the same speed, and slower than the traffic behind them. To fix this situation, the car on the left should speed up and get over, so that traffic can flow around it and spread out. Unfortunately, there is so much educational focus and enforcement on speed limits that the driver on the left believes [s]he is driving correctly.

Naturally, a lone country road designed for speed is fine. It's when you've got a high speed road with lots of on-street parking and pedestrians right next to traffic, even house fronts, where you've got a major clash of functionalities and a safety problem.

This is simply wrong in the general case. While the speeds might be lower, they are still high enough to kill.

In addition the density of the traffic can be so high that just a single wrong step can decide your destiny every minute.

Do you have some numbers to support your claims?


From CDC:

> In large central metro areas, those aged 35–44 years (2.08), 45–54 years (2.60), 55–64 years (2.60), 65–74 years (3.36), 75–84 years (5.19), and ≥85 years (5.24) had statistically higher death rates than those in the same age groups at other urbanization levels. [1]

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6215a1.htm

most US metros don't have workable public transit; most people drive to get from point a to point b even in our dense metros. Perhaps because even our metros are not dense enough, perhaps for other reasons. I would be open to data that showed there were more traffic deaths in dense areas where most people took public transit, but this isn't it.

Does this hold adjusted for miles driven?

Well, my claim was mostly that the speed is not the only factor but also the traffic density.

Even if your claim is true it's still not the point of the article.

The point of the article is wrong, though. Anyone could have done it. All of us drivers could have killed Brian. We just weren't the unlucky ones. But it is not just the author's fault, it is all of our faults.

The road system is designed with inherent danger. The street she was driving had a high speed limit with children near the road. If we design better systems, then no one has to live with needless guilt. And, even better, less people die.

Super agreed on the gist - speed limits and policy matter, if we want to reduce fatalities. But, just to clarify and double down on speed reduction -- likelihood of death is proportional to the square of velocity. Every doubling of speed is 4x more damage in a collision!

Sure, that is the message they want to give over.

However, the message I take away from this is that somehow we have accepted into society this incredibly dangerous thing which while convenient it not necessary at all. While we make everything else in society safe, we seem to ignore the most dangerous thing around us, that kills around 1.3 million people every single year.

It's amazing how much death and disease we're willing to suffer for the sake of convenience, isn't it.

We treat automobiles as a necessity of modern life in all places, but it wasn't always this way. In the 1910s and 20s, many writers excoriated all of the roads bringing dangerous cars into places where people live and play. It turns out they were right, but we just became blind to the danger.

More people died in those years of horse and cart related deaths proportionate to per capita than they do today by auto-mobiles. Both indirectly and directly.

Read Super Freakonomics for the interesting data that they observe between the two.

but we tolerated a lot more (early) death from all causes in those days, in part be cause we didn't have technology to mitigate those risks. The argument I am trying to make is that we have technology (public transit) that would mitigate those risks now, but we choose not to use it.

(My assertion is that if we had a place where we had US standard driving safety requirements but more than half the miles traveled were via public transit, we would have fewer per capita injuries. Or more generally, that the per capita injuries goes up with miles driven in cars. I have so far failed to provide statistical evidence of this.)

In the latest season of Black Mirror, the most dangerous technology is cars: https://medium.com/@galencro/whats-up-with-car-accidents-and...

I had a glancing blow at 70 mph with a car doing a similar speed coming the other way. I was in the last mile of a cross country drive and was thinking of getting to the pub. It was the bit of road I knew best.

I drove a couple of times after that, but the screaming kids in the back of the other car was enough for me.

Now I cycle everywhere. Or get the train. I was not prosecuted or anything but I didn't want to almost kill anyone (and their family) ever again.

I consider myself lucky.

Point being: cycling is good too.

Not to tell you your reaction is wrong, but it's important to remember that cycling is generally more dangerous, and that while you aren't taking action dangerous to those around you, you are likely taking action that makes everyone around you dangerous to you yourself.

Even so, cycling is wonderful. I certainly recommend it.

Health benefits offset the traffic risks in most studies, see eg. http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d4521 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullar... https://archive.org/details/pubmed-PMC3831097

It's possible that local traffic circumstances invalidate these for many locations, but at least the "generally" part of your claim seems to be reaching too far.

> cycling is generally more dangerous

Out of interest, do you have a citation for that in European countries?

It is not more dangerous to other people on the road.

That's what I said.

Danger goes both ways. If you are on a bicycle rather than in a car, you are more susceptible to the danger created by the cars around you. In effect, all of the cars around you are more dangerous than they were before, because there is a cyclist (you) on the road.

right. but... some people feel it is more ethical to take chances with their own lives than with the lives of others.

Ironically, I had the same thing happen with cycling (at a lower speed). Got in a bike vs. car accident ten years ago and since then almost never ride on the street, but driving is fine.

I agree that the message was about how humans deal with tragedy, and as a technical community we often neglect that - but it is also correct to have the technical discussion.

Two things greatly increased the probability of a fatal incident in this case:

1. Mailbox across the street from the home: If the mailbox was on the same side of the street as the home, there would be less cause to cross the street.

2. High speed roadway in a residential area: 45 mph is much too high for a residential neighborhood; 25 mph is generally regarded as safe.

"The road started out as freeway but quickly became a rural highway, one lane in each direction. The speed limit was 45 or 50mph, fairly fast for that kind of road, it was quite busy and I was in a line of cars doing the speed limit."

I'd be hard pressed to call a rural area a residential neighborhood.

> "I passed a little outpost of houses whose mailboxes were on the opposite side of the street."

I used to live on a road like this, it's not exactly a neighborhood like in most cities (so "residential neighborhood" may not have been accurate) - it's a linear neighborhood along the road. We were lucky enough to have our mailbox at the end of our driveway, not across the street; if our mailbox had been across the street, it would have been unsafe to walk and get the mail.

I live on a street like this with my mailbox on the opposite side of the street. In the winter, I always get my mail a day late since I refuse to retrieve it in the dark. Speed limit is 25mph but average speed is closer to 40mph. City can't be bothered to enforce the limit no matter how much we demand it. Sidewalks are being considered and might finally go in sometime before 2030.

I agree, it's a very poor design, likely dating from an era when high speed was a big noisy horse drawn carriage.

The proper engineering solution to this is to have an angled turn-off on to a side road (either perpendicular or parallel) which /is/ limited to a "safe residential speed".

You're right that this wasn't the author's argument, but it is a very important lesson to take away. There will always be accidents where the driver is not at fault, but it's worth taking the opportunity to think about how road design and car culture make those accidents more likely, and what we as a society can do to reduce them.

To be clear, my mentioning of dense urban cores was only because they make public transit more practical. Many dense urban cores in America don't choose public transit.

You may be correct about the authors intent; I maybe should have attached this to one of the threads where fathers talk about their vigilance in protecting their young, but I usually avoid talking directly about children and how they should be raised, because being someone who doesn't have or want children, my words often sound more offensive than I intend.

The lesson of this article is that unfortunate things, that come with a lifetime of grief, happen to good people. And perhaps more importantly, that empathy and understanding are incredibly powerful.

It is true that we should take "the responsibility of driving a lot more seriously, and treating driving as something risky" but treating this as a story about driving less broadly misses the point.


This obsession with finding fault is a significant part of the stress this woman has dealt with.

It is terrible that a child did not get to live his life, and there is nothing we can do in hindsight to bring that opportunity back to him.

It is also terrible to torture this woman over a flaw in the system. She was paying attention, and driving the speed limit. She was not at fault. Her actions could not be changed to lower the likelihood of her accidentally killing another child. Only the surrounding circumstances can be changed.

I fully agree. We amateur drivers choose to drive 1000kg metal boxes at speeds that kill for convenience.

We do not accept how dangerous this is. This is severe carelessness. We should all recognise that driving more than 30 mph when there's houses around has the real possibility of killing someone. We shouldn't need the Government to tell us, we should be aware every time we step in our car that it can kill.

Plus the woman makes no indication of how close she was to the other cars. I will never believe that she is completely blameless.

The people killed by cars are the most cruel, because in every other way they were healthy.

This is very insensitive. Driving a car is a practical necessity for most people, and genuine accidents do happen.

I don't know how you can possibly think it's appropriate to tell somebody who is suffering through the grief of accidentally killing a child that "it IS your fault".

Striving to drive less is a great thing to do for many reasons, but the vast majority of people will still be required to drive regularly. Some of those people will have genuine accidents. We don't currently live in a world where it is possible to completely prevent traffic accidents (which, for the record, are also occasionally caused by cyclists and frequently caused by pedestrians)

It is inevitable that some people will be involved in tragic accidents, and your comment does nothing to prevent that. It just makes life worse for the people in that situation

We live in a world where almost all of our actions have, somewhere, a negayive impact.

Wd usebplastic, wrong for ecology. We wear t-shirts, manufactured by poor people in China. We watch TV, whuch uses electricity bad for the environment. We drive i syead of walking, we eat non-sustainable stuff.

I could go on, and show how much of our "choices" are wrong and how, everyday, we "decide to make them".

So this boils down to either mental sanity or some kind of Amish life.

I dispute your notion that the driver of a vehicle is automatically to blame if there is a collision between the vehicle and a pedestrian.


-s- This is America, where Uncle Bob can legally teach me how to drive, and you can keep your dang ugly government driver's ed schools and regulations outta my life. And I don't have to actually be that competent because insurance makes all wrongs right. -s-

It's seriously this stupid. There's no driving test after you're initially licensed, nor any recurrence training required. All you have to do in most states is pay a fee to get a license renewed, and you can do it online. They just want the money. Some states will want your vision retested, in my state that's only once every 10 years.

My elderly aunt could teach me how to drive, start to finish, exclusively. That's legal. Her view is that driving is a right, not a privilege. The government's role is only to prove that you're incompetent to hold a license, otherwise it's between you and your insurance company.

I don't see this worldview changing very soon. I'm not confident autonomous vehicles will take over any time soon, but whenever I think of the reality of car driver incompetency it makes me wish it could happen much sooner.

I personally think that the most realistic way to fix this is to just increase insurance minimums up to a reasonable level, enough to cover a car full of statistical lives.

This, if enforced, would internalize the externality of injury into the cost of driving, and probably would make driving dramatically more expensive, which would hopefully create demand for alternate systems.

I can relate to your story, but from your brothers side. Being bullied changes you, forever, and for the negative. Children can, and are, cruel to each other, and adults don't always step in. It can easily become a tolerated form of torture.

I learned from that. I won't tolerate no amount of bullying, shaming, or excluding of an individual of groups I take care of or am part of. If they'd care it is not difficult for adults to stop bullying of kids by kids.

Even in your peer group it isn't always difficult to block bullying. If you are open, direct, loud, and confrontential enough against the transgressors, they usually stop. Though, care must be taken to not bully themselves.

I think that those that bully have themselves been hurt before or have other issues, and bullying is just a way to deal with. So, having that in mind can make it easier to deescalate these situations.

It becomes even more difficult if you finally decide to open up about how hurt you are, and you are brushed away, and not taken seriously.

As weird as it sounds, it helps to read a comment like yours to see that there are people that care, so thank you for sharing.

How did you learn to cope? My brother has lost all desire to fix the part inside him that will get to the coping stage.

I agree with you that bullies themselves have been hurt and bullying is a way to deal with it. Ever since I found out my brother was bullied, I came to the realization that this social interaction may be a situation where your best defense against bullies is actually being a bully. I don’t want to believe that, but deterrence is a real thing. For me personally, I simply laughed off the bullies when I was young, and that worked. But that was my genuine reaction to the bullies, and I just happened to have it in me to just laugh.

How did I learn to cope? How did I learn to cope with being bullied, having been bullied or how to deal with such situations as a bystander? Maybe I'll just answer all of them.

I'm not bullied any more, and can effectively defend myself now.

I'm not sure I learned to cope with having been bullied, or if I ever will. It is an invisible scar that shows itself in counterintuitive, suprising, and sometimes creeping ways. I don't know how to generically deal with it. Self-chosen social isolation is an intuitive way to deal with it, though I don't want it for myself.

I'm quite stubborn and don't easily give in to social pressure, so that might have made it easier for me. I'm also curious and want to try out new things, so I try to benignly ignore social conventions to see what happens and learn from that. This has made me in some aspects very social, because consciously refusing or experimenting with implicit social norms can lead to behaviour that is not often seen. For example, a coffeehouse is not for people to drink coffee even though that is the implicit convention; It is much easier, cheaper and more comfortable to drink a coffee at home. People go to coffeehouses for social interaction. I realize that and act accordingly. I just go to people I'd like to talk with and ask them if they feel like chatting. My experience with that has been astonishingly positive, so I assume my understanding is correct. But doing that is not easy for everyone because the fear of rejection is so strong, even when the decision to try it was made very consciously. Humans are masters at unconscious interpretation of behaviour and social situations. We know when and who to talk to about what because we dread social punishment so much. This is just one example, and I don't understand psychology very well including my own, but hey, at least I can share my experience. :)

I learnt how to act as a bystander from many experiences. There is a good german explanatory video that gives an introduction[0]. Key to stop bullying is to understand that passive bystanders make the situation for the victim significantly more painful. Those around can easily and effectively stop most bullying. If you are bullied it can help to call out passive bystanders directly and individually.

Deterrence absolutely works, and it is not necessary to bully others to build up deterrence. For instance adults can easily seem like demigods for children; unsurmountably strong, more knowledgeable and experienced, larger and heavier, with deeper lower voice and unmatchable social standing. This is why children don't often pick on adults.

[0] https://www1.wdr.de/mediathek/video/sendungen/quarks-und-co/...

For me, that happened when I became the father of two little girls.

My radar is up whenever I am in public with my daughters. I notice if strangers look for too long in their direction or if I see someone hanging out where children are, without a child of their own.

Occasionally, I'll spot another father like me. We'll lock eyes for a moment and it's clear that we recognize each other (for what we are, not necessarily who we are) and then go back to scanning the area.

I'm sorry to hear about what happened to your brother. Kids can be horrible to each other. I don't say that to minimize his experience but to say that I understand.

This heightened awareness that you feel, it comforts me to know that there are others out there. Obviously, there are no guarantees in life but your vigilance will give your son a better shot at safely reaching adulthood than many other boys who don't have someone looking out for them like that.

Is that kind of paranoia productive? Especially considering we are at historically low crime rates.

A very young child needs supervision and precautions to prevent them from hurting themselves, as this article sadly shows, and even then, its blind bad luck sometimes.

But otherwise I can’t think any of my family (two young kids, 1 year and 8 years) or friends (many kids of various ages) being super cautious about their kids in public. I don’t live in the USA, mind you.

We let daycare staff care for the little ones, which includes daily walks through the downtown core. We let kids walk to school on their own when they turned 10, we let them play unsupervised outside around age 7, or go for a bike ride with neighbor kids, etc. It’s not that different from when I was growing up. Hanging out and playing the at the park is probably less of a thing, perhaps, but that’s more because of iPads and Xboxes than safety.

The paranoia is counterproductive, it actually makes the world more dangerous. Ten or fifteen years ago this story made the rounds in Britain (writing from memory, can't be bothered to search for it in the BBC archive):

A small boy had wandered off and was found dead in a pond, he had fallen in and drowned because he could not swim. It turned out that the child had been seen by a labourer cleaning a ditch, but he had no cellphone and did not intervene because he feared the pedophile hysteria and did not want to be seen with a child that wasn't his.

It's understandable if you remember what Rupert Murdoch's Sun was like.

Excellent points. There was an article where the author interviewed a bunch of kids a few decades back and examined how they played and then revisited them 20 years later to see how their kids played.

The original group of kids played across a very large area (something like a couple square miles of woodland) and roamed across their hometowns with little oversight.

Two decades later their children by comparison were very closely monitored and played in controlled areas or fenced yards only.

The reasoning of the parents being that crime and abduction have risen when in fact they’ve fallen by a huge amount.

There’s no real sane reason behind it - I’m a parent and there’s no way I’d let my kids play in the local woods alone despite doing so myself as a kid. The world ‘feels’ less safe and it’s very hard to overcome our feelings even when we know they’re irrational.

My parents also placed perceived (by them) safety above everything else when I was a teenager. I missed out on a lot of things in life and am still missing out on things due to never having learned essential life skills and never having had essential experiences. I still resent them for that and so does my sister. Sometimes, I think parents only think of themselves, as strange as that might sound in this context. It's extremely selfish, IMO, to hold back a child from their full potential because the parents have their own irrational issues that they're not dealing with.

I think you hit the nail on the head. So much of today's parenting zeitgeist feels driven by narcissism. I feel like this is another effect of the rise of social media.

> It's extremely selfish, IMO, to hold back a child from their full potential because the parents have their own irrational issues that they're not dealing with.

This really resonates. My kid for example has wanted one of these little scooters which you see toddlers riding around everywhere. I've been refusing up until recently when I realized that by denying her access not only am I excluding her from a valuable social experience with her friends who own scooters but I'm quite possibly harming her ability to master and safely ride the thing.

It's important to realize that sometimes when you're saying to your kid "I don't think you're ready" you're really talking about yourself as a parent.

> I missed out on a lot of things in life and am still missing out on things due to never having learned essential life skills and never having had essential experiences.

New father here...do you feel comfortable talking about what life skills / experiences you missed?, so I can (try to) avoid making the same mistakes?

Mostly everything that teenagers do. Hang out, date, make friends, learn to socialize and not be constantly anxious around other people. Things like that, things that involve socializing. I tried to make up for it in college too by partying and doing plenty of irresponsible shit (because I felt entitled to having the teenage years I was robbed of). I had no problems graduating, but no one else who tried to keep up actually graduated. I'd say learning to socialize and be around people is more valuable than anything else I did learn as a teenager, by far.

Part of it is society, too. If you were to let your (young) children play in the woods at a mile from your house... and something happened to them, there's a fair chance that society would blame you nowadays. Heck, I'd venture to guess that there's a fair chance the court could take away your parental rights in a situation like that. What is considered acceptable by society has changed a LOT over the years.

I would say 100% of it is society, to be honest. I grew up roaming the neighborhood, just like a lot of kids back in the 70s and 80s. It's not that our free-roaming childhood turned us into paranoid parents, it's that the very culture of the USA became vastly more paranoid.

I would probably blame the sensational news coverage nowadays, we didnt have this 20 years ago. Back then news would contain sports/world events and bigger stuff. You hear about so many bad things happening you never think about the probability of it actually happening to you. Like all we read is "Child kidnapped" not "First child kidnapping in a year with lowest kidnap rate ever and in a place so far away that its not relevant to you".

> I would probably blame the sensational news coverage nowadays, we didnt have this 20 years ago.

Yes, we did, and the media-driven false perception was already well-established 20 years ago; I saw papers about the media-driven false perception in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Media sensationalism isn't new. Even the heightened form driven by the 24-hour news cycle is older than that (CNN, the 24-hour news network that drove the 24-hour news cycle, is 37 years old. Fox News and MSNBC, the two competing general 24-hour news networks that made that cycle competitive were each founded 21+ years ago in 1996.)

Not sure if this is the same article, but this one has stuck in my mind for the past 10+ years: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-462091/How-children-...

Obviously with little kids in an urban environment we kept them pretty close to home. Once they were in 7th and 8th grade then the ranges got longer. And honestly, it was a challenge dealing with my spouse and other families who insisted on hover-parenting or refusing to let their kids walk 3 blocks to our house. To a certain degree, that is to their detriment because it doesn't allow kids to learn and explore.

Of course, my argument, along with the article above, was "They sneak out at night and wander all over multiple neighborhoods, so why do you feel the need to keep them in your sight at all times?" But that leads to lots of other parenting stories that I'm not going into here.

>Is that kind of paranoia productive? Especially considering we are at historically low crime rates.

I balance the likelihood with the potential consequences when making my decision.

For example, logically, I know that there's no danger of contracting anything from sitting on a public toilet seat but I still make a bird's nest when I have to poop in a public place.

Intellectually, I know that the world is now statistically safer than it was when I was a child but I still do not allow my children to roam unsupervised in public places.

Your first paragraph seems to directly contradict your second and third.

Extremely low likelihood versus maximum severity of consequence versus moderate likelihood with low severity of consequence.

I choose to guard spend more time being vigilant against the former.

That's fair. Another way to look at it is "Fat tail risk".

Having you head on a swivel for would-be child snatchers at all times seems like irrational paranoia.

I imagine it's the deceptively mundane that is the true danger, automobiles being the most obvious.

This is true. The number of child abductions by strangers in the U.S. is extraordinarily low—in the neighborhood of 100 per year [1, 2]. There are lots of abductions, of course, but nearly all of them are by family members, acquaintances of the family, or other non-strangers.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-mis... http://reason.com/blog/2017/03/31/kidnapping-stats

The same is true for murders. The objectively statistically most dangerous people are those around you that you know relatively well, not some random stranger passing by or sitting on the next bench. This irriational fear of danger of strangers stops us from bonding with new people.

Have a look at the Megan's Law registry. Tell me how close the nearest violent sexual predator is to you.

A few months ago, I discovered that one lived on my street. He has since been arrested and is no longer in the neighborhood.

But, it's not just out-of-place perverts. I am also on the lookout for under supervised children who "play" too violently.

I knew that I would be concerned about vehicles, so I was sure to buy a house with a large, fenced in, backyard. It's away from the street and even adjacent to a small patch of woods. They can have outdoor adventures and I can have peace of mind.

Children are sexually abused by family members, then by adults at schools and clubs they visit. Abuse by strangers is rare.

True - my molester was a long time friend of the family, close enough that me going on a vacation trip to his state park campground trailer wasn't an unusual summer thing. Took me 25 years to remember exactly what had gone on, and a couple of years of therapy to get back to somewhat steady on my emotional feet. Never 100% sure of that anymore, but I try.

True. My position as a sheepdog isn't limited to strangers. My children aren't unsupervised with many relatives or family friends either.

They're also not left unsupervised with clergy.

Research is tricky, but at the moment we think the person most likely to abuse a child is their sibling.

I have no proof of this but I would suspect that this happens more often when the sibling had been a victim of abuse.

>Occasionally, I'll spot another father like me.

Can you expand? What type of father are you?

Honestly, you'd do better to be more vigilant of bees and mosquitoes, both of which are much more likely to kill or harm your child than a stranger abducting them.

Try not to worry so much. ;)

By "father like me", I mean one who is on the lookout for threats to his children.

Do you feel most other fathers aren't?

I’m very much like this.

BTW if you want to give your kids the best chance at later childhood, select their school not based on hearsay or image, but based on how resilient, motivated and kind/warm their teacher-to-be is. Those teachers keep bullying at a minimum, and let kids keep their natural curiosity. Spending 4-5h every day in class can make or break you at 6-8y old.

I feel for your brother and understand your fatherly fears. I have three sons. They are all fine now, but ... One got hit by a drunken driver, one broke his neck, and the other fell onto a wrought iron fence which stabbed through his skull and into his brain. All three are healthy and active. Each came so close to death. As you say, many of the largest changes are quite beyond our control. I frequently find myself having to choke back the terror to keep focus and keep moving.

Jesus. That’s a lot.

The utter powerlessness of not being able to rewind to 9 years ago to be there for my brother gets at me. As does my fear and uncertainty of the life my son will be subjected to.

Everything I know suggests to me these two things are profoundly interrelated and that if you can sort out how it is you did not see your brother's distress and/or did not understand that it had to come from somewhere, you will feel more comfortable as a father.

That isn't a personal attack. I was molested as a child and I knew how to protect my sons from the same. I did not live with the kind of fear as a parent that you describe.

I never seem to know how to say such things properly. When I try to comment on it, it is frequently taken as an accusation and that is not remotely my intent. My hope is to help you find a constructive path forward so you can make your peace with the past and make your way more confidently into the future as a parent.


Thank you for sharing your experience.

I don't want to have children, and very large part of that is the fact that I don't want to cause someone to hurt as intensely as many do growing up. I know I and my siblings had a very difficult time.

In other words, it's out of love. I am keeping someone safe.

I very much respect anyone who has chosen to have children and is dedicated to protecting them and keeping them safe. The world needs more people like you.

You should make sure your kids can defend and counter attack. Not only physically, but using their brain and resources such as authority figures and the police.

Maybe you view the world as peaceful and rosy, and that's a good view to have, but always have a fallback.

Speak softly but carry a big stick, you know.

The one thing I resented the most about my peers growing up was that they always tattled and brought their problems to someone else. Kids should learn how to deal with conflict on their own. Deferring to authority and police is a sure fire way to perpetuate the notion of “don’t worry. You’re special. There’s people to take care of you.”

People get bullied all the time. Even as adults, just in different forms. Resorting to authority early on is not the best solution.

Being bullied sucks. I will teach my kids to use any tools available to stop them being bullied. If resorting to authority solves the problem, then thats great. That's how you deal with bullies, by using whatever works; not by following some arbitrary code about doing things yourself, or not tattling etc. (Note though I live in Ireland where involving the police sounds pretty bizarre/extreme).

That is exactly my point - kids need to learn to fight back, and if a punch won't do it, calling everyone from the parents to the principal to the police sure will. Bullies need to learn this isn't an ape tribe, the earlier the better.

And as adults, every day can be a battle, if you can't hold your own, you have societal resources to back you up.

Of course, this needs to be taught as being a last resort, otherwise they may grow up to be bullies themselves. Having children is hard.

Your approach prevents children seeking help when they're being abused.

> my brother was bullied in HS and was never the same.

> the largest changes in our lives are beyond our control.

My brother and I started a very small humanist school in Hungary to give my nephew a better education and yes, to shelter my nephew from being bullied. Yes, quite a lot of things in our lives is beyond our control but with a lot of perseverance you can wrestle back control. Although the necessity to do this is exactly beyond our control...

Life is a miracle, I've accepted that a long time ago.

I can barely bring myself to read stories like this now. I never really thought about it before my son was born, but there's always this dread you live with in the back of your mind. This little helpless person has your life in it's hands. The world and fate is trying to take them out, and if they succeed you'd never recover. You can learn to live with pain, but I don't believe you ever get over something like that.

Haven't read the story yet, don't know if I will. I just wanted to reply to your comment with a personal anecdote. My eldest son died in an accident when he was about 2 ½ years old. The dread wasn't there before. I didn't think anything like that would happen to me. You do learn to live with the pain, even I sometimes cry for what would have been futile reasons. But I still couldn't bring myself to enter the church at an acquaintance's funeral. The pain was too much to handle. It's the guilt that's harder to get rid of. Everything you could have done to prevent it. Eventually (therapy does help) it softens a bit. So I don't think it's ever possible to get over something like that. It's been almost ten years. Maybe in another ten it'll have passed.

Edit: just wanted to add, spend the most quality time you can with your kids. I resigned from my job when my eldest was 1 year old to be able to spend more time with him. Best decision of my life in retrospect.

I lost my nephew at 2, drown in a pool while being babysat, his mom was an ER nurse and on duty when he came in. Bad memories all around. It effected me pretty profoundly when it happened, but I did not have children at that time, so I had no idea of the latent effects of Joey's death until my first child was born. It was both the most exciting moment and the most terrifying moment of my life. I looked at him for about 5 seconds before the memory of Joey hit me like a brick. When my youngest was born, I quit my job, took a remote contract and spent as much time as I could with the kids until they where school age. I don't know if I would have done that if it where not for the lose of my nephew. I am richer for it and have a tight bond with my children. It's a shame that such a lesson comes at such as high price.

If you have not read the story yet, don't it will stir shit up.

Most importantly I am sorry for your lose.

My cousin passed away tragically as a child before I was born, I'm now 41. My aunt and uncle still talk of him and cry every holiday. I credit myself with being able to reason and work through just about anything but i have no answer for the death of a child.

Edit: I'm not one to shy away from something difficult but i won't be reading this story either.

I think the reason for my dread was sparked by my uncle. He was shot and killed on Halloween in his 20's, before I was born. But growing up very close to my grandmother, she treated me like his replacement because I guess I'm a lot like him. She even called me by his name sometimes. Even though he was older, my entire life she's been a shell of a person in many ways.

When my grandfather died, we thought she was going to go ballistic. But she didn't even cry, she took it better than anyone. I asked her how she was able to handle it so well. She told me the loss of a child makes anything else in life seem trivial, even the loss of a decades long spouse (I'm paraphrasing). It's like a scar so big you don't have room to feel anything else, or the ability to. So thankfully, I don't truly understand, but it put the fear of God in me.

My grandmother lost a nephew (nick) in the early 80's he died in a motor cycle accident. His brother (Jared) was shot and killed behind a pool hall in the late 70's by some guys that where butt hurt about loosing some games of pool and the money that went along with it. Her other nephew (the only surviving brother, Wes) did 20 years in prison due to some guys robbing him and raping his wife (He was a drug dealer, they ended up dead, he ended up in prison you get the picture). Anyways long story short she never got over Nicky, she always said he was the good one and she felt guilty that there must have been something more she could do. She too lost her husband (the most important and influential man in my life) but to this day she will tell you the lose of Nicky hurt the worst. He was like a son to her. We have had a lot of tragedy in our family, in addition to our loss of Joey which I talked about above and Nick and Jared, my cousin Shawna was murdered at 23 by her boyfriend and her father was killed years later by some guys that robbed him at his ranch. But the point is there are certain people that hurt worse than others and for my grandmother it was Nicky, she always confided in me, that until I came along that she had the strongest bond to Nicky more so than my own father (Nick was born before him). I did not really understand when I was a child why she held so tightly to me until I was older and had children of my own. Now I get it.

With respect to your comment about time spent with your child, I was in a similar boat a couple of years ago: I was weighing the implications of taking a new job that came with a significant salary increase, but aslo had the massive downside of having to be in the office and away from my family most days / evenings (60hrs per 5-day workweek). I vividly recall a conversation I had with my father who said something to the effect of, “You know, you’ll never hear somebody on their deathbed saying, ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office.’ You do, however, hear many people lament that they didn’t spend enough time with their family.” That resonated with me deeply, and I ultimately turned that opportunity away. I’m still not making what I would’ve made there, but the mornings and evenings I’ve spent with my children have been priceless.

Of course no one says that on their deathbed. Many people on their deathbeds have been retired for more than 20 years.

People in their 20s often care about their career. People in their 80s often do not. Who's right? It's often a trade-off. The goal is not to be happy on your deathbed; it's to be happy throughout life.

I think the idea is that if you're happy throughout life, you will be happy, or at least content, on your deathbed. The "deathbed life analysis" is the thought exercise some people use to evaluate the long-term utility of decisions that seem to have obvious short-term benefits.

OK, fine. 30s and 40s, then.

People in their 20s typically don't have kids

>“You know, you’ll never hear somebody on their deathbed saying, ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office.’

I personally agree with this sentiment and am striving towards a better work life balance, but there is at least one person who has apparently said that:

"I have only one regret... that I have not worked harder." - Henry Royce (of Rolls-Royce) - https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Henry_Royce

edit: yes yes, harder != longer

Royce was a renowned perfectionist & workaholic, working so hard that he skipped meals and made himself ill. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Royce#Development_of_Rol...]

We could speculate that nothing was enough, he was never satisfied and never happy (despite all he achieved).

Thank you for sharing. My son is almost one and I just quit to go be with him more. I can't convert money into time with him so why am I converting time into money at such a high rate?

Sorry if I missed something philosophical here, but why can't you convert money into time with him?

Contracting services that could you could otherwise do yourself (e.g. cooking, cleaning, renos, repairs, etc) and spending that time with your son seems to fit the bill.

Fair question. I spend 8 hours a day not near him (at work). Most of that 8 hours is making money I don't need. I'm not a frugal or ascetic person but I have very few wants that cost money.

Is time better spent earning money to help pay for a kids financial future, or better spent playing with the kid? It's a fine line and I'm not sure there's a one-size-fits-all answer.

Unless I already have that future locked down.

You went from student to retired in 3 years? Damn son

I don't want to talk finances on here. I am not retired. I am not independently wealthy. But there's a configuration where I need to earn my own success, but failure to do so does not result in homelessness and bankruptcy. It enables me to take risks in life.

I have two toddlers and that's visceral.

I'm sorry. That's awful. That's beyond awful. There are no words.

I travel a ton for work and take the earliest flight out in the morning so I can tuck them in the night before. Then I get back late so I'm there when they wake up the next morning. Physically painful but worth it.

I'm not anywhere near "old", but you may want to consider the tradeoffs you're making on your health (I.e: longevity) by being brutal to your body in the short term. I don't have kids, but I like your values... Just make sure you're not screwing up being around later on as well.

Just a concerned stranger. I wish you well.

Point taken, considered, and hopefully already mitigated. :)

Completely agree. After my second child was born I focused my efforts into earning and saving and took a long period of unpaid time to spend with my baby. I had to keep my monthly burn rate super low and learn a lot about budgeting but it was one of the most rewarding periods of my life.

There’s always more work (it honestly never ends if your skills are valuable). But time with your kids is very precious - and that becomes very clear in retrospect.

I’ve noticed my relationship with my three year old has become closer as I’ve put more time and effort in engaging with her. There is really no replacement for quality time with your kids - no amount of toys or treats makes up for it.

Man that hurts. Strength to you.

I can totally relate to your feeling. I became a father about 4 years ago and all of a sudden stories like this one, or a sick child, took on extra meaning. I either couldn't read them or I did and it would touch me deeply and affect my mood for a long time. It's unimaginable.

Since then, two close friends have lost their children under tragic circumstances. You can't really put it into words what you'll feel for them. The only thing I try to take out of it is to be kind to others (you never know what they are going through or have gone through) and to live in the present, because you never know what can happen in the future.

> I became a father about 4 years ago and all of a sudden stories like this one, or a sick child, took on extra meaning.

I often think of how Tycho from Penny Arcade describes this phenomena: "Children carve something out of you, a place for themselves; people can twist the knife in that spot, and it just bleeds and bleeds."

I had a similar experience yesterday when my wife related a near-kidnapping that happened in a grocery store. It seems that a pair of child-traffickers attempted to take a baby out of a shopping cart. It was a male/female duo. (Side note: NEVER leave your children unattended even for a moment. In this case, the parent was right beside the cart, moving groceries from the cart to the conveyor belt. It was a brazen act on the part of the kidnappers.)

In the past, stories like that would make me angry, but that's about it. Now that I have a kid, my brain plays through the scene with him as the baby being taken. My response is violence. I'm not a violent person at all, but I think I'd probably kill those kidnappers in the heat of the moment if I realized what was happening. I mean I would find anything to use as a weapon, and I'd just beat the everliving crap out of them. It's probably the worst reaction I could have, as it would mean me spending my life in jail, my son growing up without a dad, etc. Just a terrible, terrible decision, really. But I think that's what I'd do in the moment unless I could manage to overcome emotions with reason.

It's hard to express how having a kid changes your perspective on things like this.

> NEVER leave your children unattended even for a moment.

I don't understand this approach. Alternatively, find a place to live, and a lifestyle to live, that lets your children develop without your anxiety weighing them down. You leave them unattended for hours and hours at a time while you sleep. The only difference your mind isn't racing with potential threats, it's asleep.

I don't know. all kids are different, mine too.

> NEVER leave your children unattended even for a moment.

Yeah, I have 4 kids, and this right here, in my opinion is the core of the current trend to overparent. Let your kids play where you played. Let them have their own life outside of your control and influence. There is something very unhealthy about the way we have started viewing children and childhood in the USA.

My understanding, and what I remember from some brief research, is that kidnappings by strangers are incredibly rare. This would mean that the widespread fear we see nowadays is very disproportionate, and likely due to a variety of other social factors and not some actual underlying danger. Can anyone provide a quick corroboration/correction on this?

Thanks for the data/links. Glad to know it actually isn't a major issue.

I'm glad to hear that this story was fake! I never looked it up, just heard her retelling of it.

Regardless, the story wasn't the point of my comment. The reaction I have as a dad vs pre-parenthood is the point. Where I live is the sex-trafficking capital of my state, which probably heightens my reactions, too. The problem is real and pervasive, fake news not withstanding.

Well, it's real like getting struck by lightning is real. The odds are extremely low.

Everyone could let their kids walk to school and chances are nothing bad will happen. Though it may lead to those kids being a bit healthier, more independent and more confident. And less likely to die in a car crash - which is far, far more probable than kidnapping.

I agree with your sentiment. It's more common than lightning strikes, though still super remote. But I'm not planning on sending my kids out to play in thunderstorms, and I'm not planning on leaving them unattended in public places until they're of a certain age.

Walking to school is an interesting scenario. I hate the car, so I'd probably walk with them or ride bikes together.

Side story: My dad had a friend who was almost kidnapped while on the way to school. The only reason it didn't succeed is that my dad and another friend grabbed their friend by the ankles while the guy in the car was tugging on their friend's arms. The kids all screamed bloody murder, and the men in the car gave up and drove off.

In most areas of life I like to think that I let statistics drive my thinking (e.g. I don't try to beat the stock market no matter how bad things look, unless I'm gambling for the fun of it). But in the case of kids, man... it's just much harder to overcome emotional biases.

>...It's more common than lightning strikes, though still super remote.

It doesn't look that way:

>...During the study year, there were an estimated 115 stereotypical kidnappings, defined as abductions perpetrated by a stranger or slight acquaintance and involving a child who was transported 50 or more miles, detained overnight, held for ransom or with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed.


So, 115 children were abducted by strangers that year.

The national weather service estimates that 300 people are hit by lightning a year.


Like you said, it's hard for people to overcome emotional biases.

As a comparison, sharing a bed with a baby (which many people think is safe) is implicated in thousands of deaths a year:

>...After analyzing data on 8,207 infant deaths from 24 states that occurred between 2004 and 2012, researchers determined that nearly 74 percent of deaths in babies younger than 4 months occurred in a bed-sharing situation, according to the study published Monday in Pediatrics.

>Among older infants – those aged 4 months to 364 days – the rate was slightly lower at nearly 59 percent.


As another comparison, over 1,600 children under 15 years of age die each year in car accidents.


Right. My back of the envelope math shows about 100 children abducted by strangers per year in the US and about 60 children are struck by lightning per year (hard to tell, but based on % of lightning related deaths that are under 19)-- most of which are probably well over 4 years of age[0].

I mean, either way, it's exceedingly rare, but the odds of a young child being abducted is a good bit higher than the odds that they are struck by lightning.

Both odds are really rare. But my point is that it's just logical to take precautions. Not leaving your kids unattended in public places and not leaving them out in thunderstorms... both strike me as reasonable advice. :)

Edit: throwing in the link that shows ~20% of lightning fatalities are for people between 0-19 years old.

[0] https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/jeh5_05_45-50.pdf

>...I mean, either way, it's exceedingly rare, but the odds of a young child being abducted is a good bit higher than the odds that they are struck by lightning.

Your link is talking about fatalities. Just as the number of fatalities from lightning is much less than occurrences, the same applies to kidnappings. The probabilities for the two things aren't that different.

>...But my point is that it's just logical to take precautions. Not leaving your kids unattended in public places and not leaving them out in thunderstorms... both strike me as reasonable advice. :)

Yea, the low number for lightning strikes is likely due to the fact that people do avoid going out in lightning. Also while it is reasonable to not leave kids unattended in public places, kidnappings of children have always been very rare and the extra paranoia people have about it today isn't helpful and as posters have pointed out, actually makes the world a more dangerous place.

If it's so pervasive, then why are the top of mind stories fake?

Because it's not pervasive, it's a false panic.

Trafficking is a problem that impacts runaways and immigrants. If you want to help, help them, don't get hysterical over imagined babysnatching.

Apologizing for the source, but sometimes it does happen:


Good find.

Have another one.


There are plenty of these examples over the years. It is not that it does not happen, it does happen, but it is pretty rare. My point was that you can not simply dismiss all these cases out of hand as fantasy.

This person is also accused, not found guilty (from the link, and no quick Google turning up a conviction).

It does very rarely happen. But even of the subset of events that aren't totally fabricated, many turn out to be more innocent than they are made out to be.

People getting their worldview from these sources are going to be unnecessarily worrisome about such things, which is really the point of the grandparent.

I dismiss all of these cases out of hand as fantasy, because the chances of this actually happening to me are as close to fantasy as being eaten by a shark while I am struck by lightning.

Yeah. Here's a similar one:


The story in my original comment was reported in a local news paper's website, which my wife assumed was reliable... So who knows.

Yep, this happens all the time in some parts of China as well.

>NEVER leave your children unattended even for a moment. In this case, the parent was right beside the cart, moving groceries from the cart to the conveyor belt.

Never? Come on, how far are we going to take this? Not sending them to school so you can stay home and watch for kidnappers? Never sending them to grandpa's house because grandpa might bring the kids to the grocery store and turn around for a second to pick up some carrots?

Perspective! Assuming that its not a fabricated story the risk of this sort of kidnapping is so incredibly low it might as well be zero. This sort of anxiety about it is unhealthy and unproductive. Never bring them outside because a stranger may snatch them out of a stroller? If you go to the grocery store your going to turn away for a quarter of a second to grab something off the shelf, it's a fact of life.


One of the biggest risk to children is car crashes. In which case an equally ridiculous but much much better piece of advice is "NEVER allow your children to ride in an automobile."

Agreed. Over here (Finland), parents still put babies to sleep out in a cot in the winter, and leave them in a pram outside the grocery store while they go shopping. Schoolchildren walk or cycle to school starting from grade 1. (Sadly, the municipal day care nowadays doesn't let younger kids to go about on their own; the hysteria spreads here and often sneaks in via the public sector).

Traffic is a far bigger danger than kidnappings, and the biggest danger to a child who walks to school is the parent of another child who insists on driving the kids to school.

It's OK guy, I've had nightmares where I responded that way too. It must come with the testosterone. We're born with a capacity for violence and then it's reinforced by a culture that condones revenge/defense killing as long as you do it in the heat of the moment. It's a terrible natural response on an individual level, but probably goes a long way preventing people from messing with other people's kids on a societal level.

Same here. I cringe when I see the common HN rhetoric that parents now a days are over-protective. Go say that to parents who lost a child and now live in regret.

Kids are unpredictable. I remember being 7 years old and waiting with my mom to cross a busy street. For some reason that today is unknown to me, I decided to just run across the street as soon as the lights turned yellow. I almost got hit and my mom almost had a heart attack. I use this example to keep me alert when I'm with my daughter in a potentially dangerous but seemingly safe environment. You never know what's going on in their little heads.

Being careful is fine and understandable but over-protective "helicoptor" parenting is bad for the kids: it destroys their self confidence. I know a helicoptor family where their youngest daughter couldn't properly walk down stairs until she was 12. She's already broke more bones than all my kids combined.

That's why our priorities are so backwards. We deprive our kids of the simple adventurousness of childhood, but at the same time we structure our lives in ways where speeding auto traffic is functionally unavoidable. That's like locking the liquor cabinet but not the cabinet where you keep the rat poison. Or like filing down the sharp edges on a hand grenade.

Children need to live in an environment where they can have adventures make mistakes and get hurt. Even badly injured. But not killed.

Cars kill.

Absolutely agree. And I admit that I display a bit of helicoptor myself when moving cars are within a distance reachable by my youngest.

Safety around cars has nothing to do with helicopter parenting.

You know them and I don't, but there's often a good but hidden reason for odd behavior. Maybe their youngest daughter is so, so, so clumsy on a daily basis that they constantly need to tell her to be careful. Maybe she's so clumsy she's constantly falling and breaking bones performing typical childhood activities.

The father's mother is exactly the same (i.e. helicoptor) so there could have been some trauma but it's probably multiple generations in the past.

I don't believe this story, unless this child has some sort of medical frailty.

Your post complains that helicopter parenting causes broken bones, meanwhile other anti-helicoptering activists argue that breaking bones is a necessary part of healthy development, that helicoptering prevents.

I'm having trouble seeing your argument for all the straw people. I don't care what you believe, I watched her walk down my steps one step at a time, both feet stable on that step before taking the next one. Why? Because her whole life she's hearing "NO! BE CAREFUL! STEPS ARE DANGEROUS!" so of course she's terrified and has no confidence that she can do it.

>meanwhile other anti-helicoptering activists argue that breaking bones is a necessary part of healthy development

Who says that? The fact is, the broken bones came, in her case, from the fact that she has no experience or confidence in things kids her age are able to do but ends up playing with other children (often younger!) who can. My kids already had their falls and scrapes when they were younger and closer to the ground. Now they know how to swing on a swing, roller blade, etc., without getting terrified and falling over. They also know better how to fall to minimize damage because they have experience with it.

Look, over-protection is simply bad [1]. That's why it's called over-protection. If you're doing it, you're harming your children and you need to stop.

[1] http://www.brainy-child.com/articles/negative-consequences-h...

In my experience some parents pick certain things to be over-protective about, or catering too much to their kids. A good friend of mine introduced me to this family with a couple kids that were still not able to tie their own shoes, the youngest was 12 years old. Another friend of mine (well his wife) won't let their daughter do basically anything outside without a helmet and other pads, even jump roping. People probably think she's special needs.

I still force him to hold my hand when we're anywhere near cars, and I worry when I can't hear him. But I also look the other way when I know his step-brother is playing a little too rough with him. And I let him bang hammers in the garage when I'm working in there. I guess I'm trying to find a balance, but I'm sure I make some mistakes.

I'm guessing that their argument is "it is likely that child has underlying medical problems that caused the movement issues and made it easier to break her bones".

No the child is perfectly healthy. Their argument is "see! I look away for a second and look what happens!"

The normal anti-helicopter line is that a certain degree of early childhood risk, which naturally involves some degree of minor harm and rare things like broken bones, results in children better able to manage routine hazards and less harm over the long run.

Some age over 12 is well into the age where anti-helicoptering advocated would be likely to expect the harms of early helicoptering to have manifested, so the description in GP does not, to me, seem at all inconsistent with the common anti-helicoptering argument.

Just be sure you have a realistic sense of the risks.


The primary risks to children are traffic, drowning, and as a teen and preteen suicide.

This gives you and your kids a pretty small number of things to be scared of, and consequently a small number of important safety lessons to impart.

A little girl cycled of the pavement a while ago, just as I was passing, good brakes and no traffic from the other side. Very close call and I have not yet gotten over it yet, nightmares and daily thoughts about it. I am pretty sure her mom also remembers it vividly. Kids can be totally unpredictable like that and how it all ends is hugely dependent on circumstance.

You're a good person; listen to your subconscious! You can't change the unpredictability of kids, but you ~can stop driving, and model good non-driving behavior for your kids and the other people around you.

How come you think I can stop driving? If I stop driving I can kiss the business I built up over the last 10 years goodbye, there is absolutely no way that I can work without the level of mobility and reliability that a vehicle affords.

I have on occasion experimented with public transport in the country where I live and it simply does not work at a reliability level that I can trust not to result in regular embarassment due to inability to be where I need to be when I agreed to be there. This is a pretty bad state of affairs but I did not create that state of affairs and the day that this is fixed I will be more than happy to stop driving.

As it is, between email and driving I do not know which I hate more and as soon as I shut down my business and can retire I will be happy to get rid of both.

Please do not make assumptions about other peoples lives.

I’m not sure what you’re envisioning, but unless you live around reliable public transit (which is a tiny percentage of the geographic US) you can’t avoid driving, or at least carpooling.

Yes. After becoming a father, and especially as my son has grown to a teen, I have become more and more unable to voluntarily consume media which involves the death of children. Nonetheless, I read this one, because it involves confronting this deep seated fear from a perspective I felt I could relate to.

I have a six months old. I really REALLY dreaded reading this article... but afterwards I've finally realized that for the last half year I've been quite afraid, scared of the fact that this beautiful thing that came into my life can be taken from me at any time by an uncaring cosmos.

Powerful stuff. It feels vitally important to confront this fear. But I do feel deeply unsettled.

This is so true: "quite afraid, scared of the fact that this beautiful thing that came into my life can be taken from me at any time by an uncaring cosmos."

That fear doesn't go away, and, as I indicated, it actually got worse over time for me. Not crippling/anxiety or anything like that, but comes out at random times, not to mention all the expected times (e.g., reading news, watching media, etc.).

I'm the same. I see previews for tv/movies about kidnappings or other atrocities involving children and I just shake my head. NOPE. Why would I want to think about that more than I already do? The fear is too real for a father.

Same. It's bad enough that my son (then 2, now 6) almost ran into a very busy street while I was in the car waiting as my wife was getting him ready to go home from daycare.

That feeling of utter panic and helplessness watching him run while my wife and I screamed for him to stop will never, ever go away. It still pains me when the memory comes up, of what could have been.

He stopped 3 feet from an oncoming 18-wheeler and turned around in more fear than I've ever seen in a little kid since.

It is really scary to think about it. But don't focus on what you might loose. Just be grateful for what you have. Try to enjoy every moment you have with them.

I think I do. My boy is 6 now, so he's a little less vulnerable, and I've learned to see that anxiety for what it is. Honestly, I don't think it scares me as much anymore, but as soon as you read an article like this it can ruin my day.

But then maybe it's good to have a dose of it once in awhile, to keep me from getting to comfortable with his safety.

The problem with that advice is that is makes too much sense.

In otherwords, most people would agree with it, but then comes the hard part. Fundamentally transforming default thinking patterns that have been etched deeply through years of habit and experience.

Why leave out step 2? Can advice on step 1 be helpful without a plan for step 2?

Fundamentally transforming default thinking patterns that have been etched deeply through years of habit and experience.

...and hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. We are hard wired to spend an inordinate amount of time and attention on averting losses of all kinds, often to a degree that confounds any sort of cost/benefit analysis.

Not really. Young people are naturally adventurous, and old people are naturally cautious. It's a balance of life stages that works really well for society in aggregate.

Both are averting losses of different kinds. Young people are driven by social pressures (FOMO), old people are avoiding bigger risks (mortality, financial calamity).

This is bog standard behavioral economics. I highly recommend Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow".

Thanks for this comment - this is exactly how I feel with two daughters (6 & 3). Any stories like this just make me think about my kids being in that scenario.

I try to use it to motivate me to be mindful of enjoying this time and grateful for my luck.

> This little helpless person has your life in it's hands.

A Freudian slip that exemplifies even more how it feels to have a child.

same ... I can't watch movies and tv shows (cop dramas and such) in which a child is victimized. When such an episode comes on, I just get really uncomfortable, and nope out to do something else.

Same here, wish there was a Netflix section for "movies where no children are harmed"

They also need one for "movies where no dogs are killed". There's a lot more movies that do that than you might expect.

I know several people that get really angry when they are subjected to a movie with this in it.

There are two John Wick movies that demonstrate the height of revenge fantasies over a dead dog. :)

10 years ago I had to have my German Shepherd put down; she was suffering from cancer, and I couldn't take it any longer.

A few weeks later I was watching I Am Legend in the theater, and when (spoiler alert) I could see what looked like the inevitable demise of Will Smith's dog, I hoofed it out as quickly as I could. I was completely unprepared to deal with that, and to this day I've never finished the movie.

Yeah, good call.

I'm sorry you had to have your dog put down. It's an awful decision. When my parents decided to do that for the dog I grew up with, I really hated them for awhile. I didn't have a dog for a long time after that, but now I have a one year old Shiba, and I dread the day when I'll have to make that decision. Hopefully that won't be for a long time from now.

I've often thought that having pets (who will obviously have a shorter lifetime than humans) will help them learn to deal with death. That way, when it inevitably happens to an adult in their life, they will have experience processing it.

That may seem a morbid thing to think about, but everything happens for a reason ... circle of life and all that.

Not quite a Netflix category, but there's https://www.doesthedogdie.com/ tracks a few other things in addition to dog deaths.

That'd be a spoiler.

Same and this is a really good idea

I think it would be good to even have a site where you could check this, or a filter. I am not suggesting that any content should be removed.

Non-parent here. I’m surprised to hear calls for a Netflix “safe space” from adults on HN rather than from whiny kids at a liberal arts college. It’s obvious that you’re sincere and that becoming a parent has affected you profoundly.

There's a chasm of difference between electing not to consume some form of entertainment, and refusing to listen to an argument or speech in a university environment.

Most of the time when harm to a child is depicted in a film or television show, it is sort of a cheap, unfair way to get at the viewer's emotions.

What is suggested here is nowhere near the same thing as having a "safe space" which restricts the speech of others.

I don't know much about TV, but sad things have happened to children throughout history and this features in many great works of literature. To filter the cultural/artistic output that you consume based on whether or not it contains something one finds upsetting is a great mistake. I think that that applies even to your evening TV entertainment, but it certainly applies to undergraduate education in the humanities.

They didnt say the movies should be banned from Netflix, but rather that they would like to have some filter in order to avoid such movies.

So you feel sympathy for people on HN, but not for the college students who want to be warned when they're going to read something that might depict some other kind of traumatic experience?

Yes, because the people here are intelligent adults, whereas kids asking for trigger warnings are spoiled embarrassments that need to learn to confront life as it is.

If you're talking about trigger warnings, this is the crux of the so called "SJW" movement: it's a bunch of emotion from ignorant people. Actual studies show that trigger warnings are actually more damaging than not having them [1] [2] [3].

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-cod...

[2] http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/cover_story/2016/09/w...

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTU3hxgr2Kc

I'm unsure if you posted the wrong links, or if you mistook those for science. None of those links reference any "actual studies" whatsoever, let alone peer-reviewed scholarly studies regarding the impact of trigger warnings.

Additionally, the first article linked is one of the worst long-form stories I may have ever read. It's scattered, making a claim and then jumping to another without justifying it in any way, shape, or form. This is the furthest thing from being scientific, and having looked at the authors, I see why. One is "president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education" and the other is "Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist at New York University Stern School of Business and the director of Heterodox Academy". The Heterodox Academy is a right-wing group trying to de-left college campuses via bullshit propaganda. They don't care about diversity of views, they just want college kids to take up their antiquated mantle.

Regardless, there may be something harmful that comes from the (over)abundance of trigger warnings, and there may have even been some science along those lines, but it certainly isn't present in or referenced from these links.

I don't know much about Jonathan Haidt but in fact in the 3rd link there (youtube) Haidt does reference actual studies. See around 6min20s.

I don't think Haidt is some sort of evil troll, are you sure you've really listened to him?

I couldn't find a direct link to the scientific studies but the second link mentions one of the scientists and talks about their findings.

You can say what you like about Jonathan Haidt but he's a credited psychologist who's simply going to know more about this subject than you do (or what that troll in the 3rd link did). Your assessement of Heterodox Academy is also, itself, bullshit propaganda of the worst order. (1) I don't believe Haidt is actually right wing. (2) Social justice is a fringe thing on the left, not all (probably not even most) liberals actually subscribe to it (see Bill Maher). (3) They're not trying to "de-left" colledges, they're trying to ensure colledges remain a place of debate and sharpening of ideas instead of pandering to spoiled helicoptor children. (4) The statement "They don't care about diversity of views, they just want college kids to take up their antiquated mantle." is a bold face lie. Please edit your post to remove this, or I'll be forced to conclude you are a liar.

Conclude what you will. Anyone who has even a modicum of familiarity with them will know that this is correct.

No, anyone that is part of your tribe will echo your sentiments but if you ever actually listen to Haidt speak it's clear in 5 minutes that everything you said is a lie.

I watched ´Centennial´ when I was a kid. The images still haunt me.

Same here. Father of two. I tried to watch Schindler's List during the holidays but I couldn't... some scenes are just unbearable for a parent to see.

Same. I never truly understood fear and dread until my daughter arrived. I went from being a rather fearless person to seeing the true danger in the world everywhere.

While in college I used to run electric in houses that were being built. The old guys liked me because I'd hang from rafters upside down to reach lights, even when there were no floors yet and you could see 2 or 3 stories into the basement. The thought of falling never once entered into my mind, and I remember thinking they were lame for being so afraid.

Same for me. I read stuff like this and always picture it happening to my kids. It somehow makes it worse in this instance that it's a complete accident that no one could have done anything to prevent it. I'm much more sensitive and squeamish since having kids.

There's plenty that could've been done to prevent this. Most basic and simple would be to institute a traffic law culture in which the driver does get blame by default for hurting a pedestrian so they have pedestrians on their mind every single minute they control their car.

What the hell? Did you read the story? This woman should be blamed for what was completely unpredictable? Do you realize she would be in prison for vehicular manslaughter?

How about not having a 40 or 50 mph speed limit on a residential street?

And mandating fences and sidewalks to give more visibility? Building codes that ensure there is visibility in all driveways? There probably are a lot of policies you could put in place.

I believe she stated it was a rural road or had just turned into a rural road. Commonly now these have a 55mph speed limit and people do live on them. Its not described that she was going 45 or 50 through what we think of as subdivisions now.

I said "institute a traffic law culture", not "apply this ruling to this woman". If the entire culture is based on certain assumptions, many aspects of it change to accommodate it.

For example all of the things nickspacek mentions here would be brought in in due course based on pressure from the drivers themselves: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16107645

So the next person this happens to goes to jail? You're proposing that drivers will ask for speed limits to be reduced because they don't want to fall afoul of this proposed law? Do you realize how silly that sounds?

Legal driving does not mean I have the ability to repeal basic physical laws like inertia. If you're trying to legislate cars off the road altogether, then this is probably one way to do it, but good luck with the general program.

> So the next person this happens to goes to jail?

No, that is not how you build a culture. :)

How would that help? The kid ran out onto a street with traffic traveling at 50 MPH. Being aware of pedestrians does nothing when it's not physically possible to avoid hitting one.

> There's plenty that could've been done to prevent this

Well, for one thing, putting rural mailboxes on the same side of high-speed roadways as the houses they serve would seem to be an obvious mitigation, though it would probably have some additional mail delivery costs.

Have you not seen what happens in some parts of the world where people throw themselves in front of vehicles as a form of insurance fraud? And you want to extend that to make the driver guilty of a crime when that happens?

I live in germany, traffic law works like that here, and the insurance fraud you mention is not known here. Not sure why. Maybe because of other aspects of the law culture here.

Maybe because you don‘t get a lot of money if you get hurt, so it doesn‘t pay off?

Because you rarely get damages above 50k for even severe injuries.

It was not the driver's fault in this case. The child ran right into a residential road with a high speed limit.

The road should not have had such a high speed limit, should have had speed bumps, and possible the little boy's parents should have had a fence.

Punishing the driver in this case doesn't fix the problem at all.

Tragic preventable automobile accidents will continue to not be prevented, because over-engineering for one particular criterion is its own kind of tragedy.

In this particular case, there is one thing that stands out to me above all others: the mailboxes were on the opposite side of the road from the houses. The second thing that distressed me was that the cop, after investigating and deciding there was no reasonable suspicion that the driver was criminally culpable, went on to lecture the driver anyway.

The road should have had a high speed limit, with no speed bumps. And there should have been no reason for pedestrians to ever set foot on it. Those mailboxes were on the wrong side of the road, because the postmaster decided that the driver on that rural route should not have to turn around twice or exit their vehicle to service those addresses. That boy died to save $300 in postal employee wages per year.

The homes should have had a gravel frontage road--behind a guardrail, bollards, cable, or Jersey barrier--with the mailboxes on the same side of the main road as the buildings.

And the cop should not have been lecturing anybody. That's the judge's job. No arrest? That means no judge, and no lecture. "Here's the number of the guy we called out to tow your vehicle, and the department's photocopied resource list of local businesses that may be helpful to you today, in the aftermath of your incident. I can give you a ride back into town, where you will have an opportunity to give a written statement for the accident report. Then you can use one of the payphones in the lobby to call somebody."

Cops just want to feel like they're doing something productive. Best just to ignore them.

Punishing the driver would make drivers join with residents in fighting for speed control. The current state is a huge privilege for drivers at the expenses of pedestrians, because drivers aren't required to care about safety.


You're proposing to punish people for just bad luck. Not a good idea.

Punishing people despite them having broken no laws is obviously nonsense.

I force myself to read stories like this, as it helps keep in perspective that everyday I have with my son is a gift, and never take it for granted.

I don't really have anything to add other than I completely agree. I won't read the story. There's also certain documentaries I won't watch for the same reason.

Same boat. I used to not care more than that - I would tell myself it's awful and move on. but now that I have kids I can't read stories like that without feeling sick.

Agreed, I'm a father and found it to be a tough read.

My cousin's daughter was killed in a car accident while my wife was pregnant with our daughter. I think about her almost every day, and just have this absolute immense sense of dread when I think about what it would be like to lose her in such a sudden and freak way.

I can't imagine.

You can't read the story, but I bet you still drive?


What a nasty little comment. No, we did not all swear off cars, but we will do our damnest to drive slow in areas where children are known to be about, keep our vehicles in top shape so that when you need to swerve or do an emergency stop there are as few variables in the equation as possible, will not do drugs, will not drink and will keep our eyes on the fucking road.

By your standard we should all jump off the nearest bridge for living our lives in a way that we can not guarantee that something bad will ever happen to children, our own or someone else´s.

Attempting to guilt trip people for taking part in society is pretty low.

Can we just at some point admit that we inevitably will lose people in accidents and that the trade off is just not worth it?

That is exactly what happened. It is why we have the world we have. And I am fine with changing that world to a better one but the path had better be incremental and realistic or it simply will not happen. And even then there will be some risk of accident.

That was not especially directed at you, in this whole thread you can find a worryingly high amount of ridiculous proposals or behaviours... Zero risk is not a thing in life, we just have to deal with it.


It looks to me as if you have missed out on the last 100 years or so of social developments. If you want to go back to an age before cars then that is fine by me but no amount of guilt tripping language is going to make that happen. I cycle where and when I can, I drive when I have to. In fact, I would be highly surprised if you biked more than I do, which - incidentally - got me rather severely injured a while ago. That - by my book - is as good as it gets. If you feel that ´your standard´ is the one that everybody should live by then here is some news for you: not everybody is you. I´d feel tremendously conceited if I felt that other people should live by my standards.

Instead, let´s try to live within the law by the rules set by society, accept that life is risk and will never be risk free, no matter what rules we decide to live by and let´s strive to make society incrementally better rather than to pretend to live a life that is ´better´ by our own standards and to recognize that for every item that is better in our lives there are probably plenty left in which they are still worse.

In other words, get off your high horse, and recognize your own shortcomings rather than to ram your personal view of the right way to live down others' throats.

So, let´s campaign for more bike paths, other means of separation of traffic streams, safer vehicles for outsiders, pedestrians, bikes and occupants of other vehicles. But spare me the self-righteous holier than though attitude. It reminds me of militant vegetarians, they tend to give other vegetarians a bad image. If you are trying to make the case for cycling you are doing a piss-poor job of advocacy.

One big reason I drive as little as possible is specifically because it's dangerous to everyone around me, even though I believe myself to be a cautious driver.

40,000 deaths a year in the United States, top cause of death in every age group to 1 to 44 (killing someone with your car counts as "unintentional injury" in the CDC's reporting) is an ongoing moral tragedy of huge dimensions.

So sure, life can never be "risk free" but to equate that with the total carnage and destruction on the road, is frankly evil.

Even if everybody drives as little as possible - and with the cost of driving leisure driving is not quite as prevalent as it once used to be - there will still be substantial risk. That risk can be decomposed into a number of factors:

- mixing different kinds of traffic

- the existence of different kinds of traffic

- speed differences between the various kinds of traffic

- situational elements such as poor visibility

- not adapting to circumstance

- breaking the law

and so on.

Where I live cycling is common, we have a cycling culture. Almost nobody wears helmets. Even so, people drive quite a bit too, and the cyclist of one moment is the driver of the next. Accidents - while not as common as in the states - can and do happen. And just like we are not going ban children from traffic we are not going to get anywhere by demanding we ban cars or cyclists. That is just this side of silly and will not get us anywhere. Improvements are made because of reasonable argument, not by shrilly demanding society stops working to comply with one´s personal demands.


Could you please stop? Your comments in this thread amount to trolling.


The number and degree of your assumptions about me, my life and what I am or am not exposed to is so far besides the truth that I think it is ok to stop the discussion here. Much good luck to you.

It seems like you just gave me permission to stop discussing. Subtle, yet still offensive. That's a neat trick, I'll have to try that. "Hey everyone who disagrees with me! You should all definitely feel totally free to stop the discussion here."

The number of my assumptions about you is three:

1) You feel guilty about driving and good about biking. Source: your words.

2) You care about human life. That's just extrapolation from 1) and from the fact that you were interested in (at least the comments on) this article, and is moreover, charitable towards you. Take that away and I'd be assuming you're something much worse.

3) You feel conflicted when you get behind the wheel. Probably the least fair assumption of the three. No real grounds for it, other than 1) & 2) and the fact of how strenuously you defend driving (but not in a way that proclaims it's right and just, rather in a way that says I'm wrong to remind people about it).

The rest of it is about people in general, people I've witnessed talking about this in various contexts in the past. I see I used the pronoun "you" occasionally in that portion, so if that was confusing, I apologize, it's the usage of "you" that means something more like "one" or "someone."

You've also made some assumptions about me, which I don't find "ok" at all, but I let most of those go as the cartoons they are. My flaws that you want me to enumerate (which would in no way affect your own, even if it turned out I was a mass murderer or an angel) do not include driving a car, and as I said, that's relevant because that's how I know it's possible to avoid it. And it's also the source of some other flaws you're witnessing, including being rude, pissed-off and fresh-out of patience with people saying how messed up the world and the roads are, while contributing to the problem. People hate being confronted with that shit, more than anything else. I don't care, this is not your "safe space" any more than the roads are mine. Nor am I an ambassador or an advocate trying to gently coax and sell people on something. I know most of them would sooner jump off a bridge than change voluntarily, and you implied that very thing. I just want to be a pain in the butt and remind them they're doing something that benefits themselves at the expense of others, and pissing people off like me in the process who have kids and lives also.

I'm hoping one day we'll look back on car driving as something as horrendous as gladiatorial entertainment in Rome.

In the UK we have 1 child killed and 37 seriously injured every week.

I forget where I heard this joke.

In the future, little Johnny and grandpa are fishing on the lake, after being driven there by their self-driving car.

"You see that car there Johnny? When I was young, we had to drive these ourselves if we wanted to go fishing. It was great! You felt the wind in your hair, you could go wherever you want, whenever you want, you could make out with your sweetheart in the backseat, you would never feel so free!"

"Whoa, grandpa! Wasn't that dangerous, going so fast without the help of a computer?"

"Oh yeah, millions died".

That's great - thanks for sharing.

Self driving cars will not solve this problem unless they collectively decide not to drive any more.

A better solution would be to set towns and cities up in such a way that the various traffic streams are separated vertically.

Some people are not capable of transporting their own bodies, and we're always going to need motorized transport for them. Self driving cars will be super-human in most of the ways that matter for driving (reaction time, constant vigilance, ability to analyze a scene in all directions, experience gathered from an entire fleet of cars). I hate cars, but I'm hopeful they'll be so much better and also so much more expensive, that we'll have a much smaller, much safer fleet of them, and humans driving in most circumstances will be banned.

I believe you're right about that looking back. One of the safest developments in car culture has been the round-a-bout. Of course that works so well because it physically prevents the collisions that would otherwise happen in the centers of intersections. My hope is that we will extend that idea to all roads everywhere, and that future generations will physically separate roads intended for cars from roads intended for cyclists and pedestrians. Burying them underground but w/ ventilation for the exhaust, for example.

Umm, pretty much.

Sold my car, moved to Europe, commute by bike. I do rent a car now and then when it can't be avoided and in those scenarios I drive with extreme caution.

The US has a 9/11 every month on the roads and almost nobody there gives a shit. I never understood it.

Same story for me. In the USA you're seen by many of your peers as a crazy reckless daredevil for riding to work. Here in Ghent, Belgium you're just another guy riding to work. During rush hour it feels a bit like critical mass did back in the states.

I visited Ghent once and adored it, at least the car-free center.

It's not at all a 9/11 because not very many of traffic accidents are intentional homicide.

closer to legalized manslaughter. Anyway, it was just a way to relate the death toll.

Haven't you collectively decided to do nothing?

Besides the homicide rate is not far of a 9/11 every few months is it?

Actually, a lot of people including dread driving cars and try to avoid it as much as possible. My wife thinks I'm lazy because I don't want to drive to so and so, but the real reason is because I know the more I drive, the higher the chances of a life-threatening accident

Are you a nervous wreck? There are lots of things more dangerous to you than driving a car. A little less than 40,000 deaths a year sounds like a lot, but I think perhaps we are just not good at comprehending what that number means in the context of a country with more than 300,000,000 people.

what dangers are more dangerous?

Suicide. The flu. Accidental poisoning. Each of those claim more people every year than auto accidents. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many risks you face that exceed that of driving a car. Especially if you are driving a fairly modern one with a responsible level of care.

Think about this. If you want to increase your probability of dying in an car accident to about 100%, then you need to drive roughly 100,000,000 miles. Of all the things to worry about, this is pretty low.

All the people talking about being unable to handle/comprehend the death of their child, and especially the one line of conversations about the impact of losing one child when you have many more, made me think about something. For most of human history, losing some children was expected. Child mortality rates for most of our history have been abysmal.

As species, what impact did that have on us? Child abuse has a long history of being accepted, with child sacrifices in some cultures to forced marriages of children (not to say any of these events were super common, but there were cultures in which they were accepted even if not common). Look at 16th to 18th century and what happened to orphans of single mothers and it is horrible by modern standards. In some cases orphans were treated as child slave labor or worse (granted, they would grow out of it if they survived, while with actual slavery it was for life). Even into the 19th and 20th century we had children working in factories where dismemberment was all too common.

But around the start of the 20th century, that started changing, and today harming a child is one of the worse things that a person can do. Many would quicker forgive an ex convict that killed a rival gang member than someone who intentionally seriously injured a child.

I wonder if this is at all tied to drops in child mortality rates.

I think the pain of loss was just as severe, and the past was just more miserable than we think.

Someday our children and descendants will look back at our time period in horror at the atrocities we continue to allow happen globally.

300,000 children under 5 die every year of malaria. The extensiveness of the agony that causes is difficult to comprehend.

> I think the pain of loss was just as severe, and the past was just more miserable than we think.

Why would the pain be equivalent, despite the vastly different context: life experiences and expectations, cultural details, worldviews, etc?

To be clear, there are many aspects/phases to the pain of loss. I can imagine that the initial suffering may be very similar, but that the integration/processing of the event in subsequent months and years be significantly different.

That's not to say that, overall, it wasn't worse back then, but I'm guessing the pain from a single loss event might be noticeably different due to the vastly different context.

My mother lost one of her siblings (a small boy of 4) 65 years ago. She still talks about it and becomes very sad. I think life was just much much crueler and a lot lot worse than it is today.

65 years ago is after the change happened. Part of the problem is I'm talking so long ago that everyone who only knew that reality. Maybe we could look at some place overall isolated from the rest of the world where child mortality throughout the society is similar to centuries ago, but with globalization I'm not sure that is possible because even in places where it is extremely high now, the local wealthy would have access to ways to lower it and in many places the child mortality rate hasn't been sustained at that level (if you look at the child mortality rates in Yemen, the levels is something new caused by the war).

Families were bigger, less emotional investment per capita. Human life, in as far as an economist can quantity it, was objectively worth less too. Nowadays we are highly educated value creators.

> All the people talking about being unable to handle/comprehend the death of their child, and especially the one line of conversations about the impact of losing one child when you have many more, made me think about something. For most of human history, losing some children was expected. Child mortality rates for most of our history have been abysmal.

Exactly, the preciousness of childhood and children in general is a more modern trend. Certainly our ancestral parents felt the loss, but not nearly so keenly because they still had to focus on feeding the rest of the family.

And it is absolutely related to the drop in child mortality. Falling child mortality leads to less need to have fewer children since they're more likely to survive. This leads to families with fewer children (a trend seen world-wide), and each family invests more heavily in the children they have. It very much looks like loss aversion and the sunk cost fallacy.

> Certainly our ancestral parents felt the loss, but not nearly so keenly

Having recently read a few accounts of early European settlers in New Zealand, nothing about their accounts would make me think that they felt the loss less keenly. New Zealand was colonised by Europeans relatively recently but older accounts of loss don’t make me think any loss was somehow less either.

I’d agree that the loss was less unexpected.

Unsure how you would measure this effect though.

I think it's mammalian, not just human. We've felt a loss that's hard to describe all throughout history. Just because it was common doesn't mean it hurt any less.

Here's the description of a man losing his son, from Beowulf, a thousand years ago:

(lines 2444-2464 of Heaney's translation)


It was like the misery felt by an old man

Who has lived to see his son’s body

Swing on the gallows.

He begins to keen

And weep for his boy, watching the raven

Gloat where he hangs: he can be of no help.

The wisdom of age is worthless to him.

Morning after morning, he wakes to remember

That his child is gone; he has no interest

In living on until another heir

Is born in the hall, now that his firstborn

Has entered death’s dominion forever.

He gazes sorrowfully at his son’s dwelling,

The banquet hall bereft of all delight,

The windswept hearthstone; the horsemen are sleeping,

The warriors underground; what was is no more.

No tunes from the harp, no cheer raised in the yard.

Alone with his longing, he lies down on his bed

And sings a lament; everything seems too large,

The steadings and the fields.

Such was the feeling

Of loss endured by the lord of the Geats

After Herebeald’s death.

It's biological, at the end of the day, there's nothing more valuable than the lives of your offspring. It's a common theme throughout all of life not just humanity. The most primal and greatest loss possible by a living thing is the death of its offspring. Humans being human are uniquely equipped to suffer in this regard.

Yes, there has been a substantial shift. I found the book "Cherubs, Chattels, Changelings" to be a good treatment of the difference.

Suffice it to say, we have a very unusual society today, compared to the arc of human history.

Didn't earlier societies value the life of elders more than children, because they had a life of experience and wisdom that was lost?

Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined addresses most of this stuff. Super interesting book. Seems like things were super horrible in the past. It seems that most people think the world is getting worse and more dangerous over time but the opposite is true.

>Many would quicker forgive an ex convict that killed a rival gang member than someone who intentionally seriously injured a child.

When has this ever not been true? People instinctively (and reasonably[1]) consider crimes to be more serious where the victim is more sympathetic or vulnerable, and vice-versa.

[1] Though they might be unreasonable in their sympathies and/or assessments of vulnerability, like a misogynist who always assumes female accusers are liars, and claims a woman punching a man is as serious as the reverse.

Or, the identity of the victim might engender unreasonable, emotional reactions: a jury might vote to convict despite the prosecution not proving the case, or the evidence pointing to a tragic accident, because the victim was a child.

>When has this ever not been true?

In the past before child abuse became seen as a big deal. Granted, if you hurt the child of some wealthy/powerful individual it was considered bad, but children of the poor, and especially children of single mothers were offered no where near the status they are given today.

Just look at societies where infanticide was common place to see that harming a defenseless child wasn't considered that bad an action (especially in cases where the child was showing signs of having developmental issues, I've read about there even being mythology that developmentally delayed children were treated as if the real child had been replaced by some demonic like figure who was being left to die/killed).

Or consider societies where children were effectively property of their parents (namely their father) and he could do as he liked to them?

Look at cultures where children were forced into marriages, something that would not be accepted today. Yes, people vastly overestimate how often such marriages happened (especially when at least one was young), but it was still far more tolerated when it did compared to today. Even in the last few years we have a few countries who still have laws on the book that reduced/removed punishment for a rapist if they married the victim. This historically applied even when the victim was a child (the Bible even has two passages that require such a punishment, one for when the child hasn't hit puberty (where the father can void the marriage) and one where the child has (where the father cannot void the marriage).

Or just look at a society that sacrificed children.

But those are examples of acts which we consider immoral and criminal today, but were acceptable and legal (or even moral and mandatory) in the past. People didn't think it was okay to commit crimes targeting child victims, they just didn't think of those things as crimes at all (which, at the time, they weren't).

That's a separate issue from what you were (or seemed to be) saying in the post I responded to, that in the past criminal gang members would be considered more sympathetic victims than children.

I don't believe there has ever been a society anywhere or at any time where violent crime between rival criminal gangs (of adult males) was considered morally worse than violent crime where adults harm children, in both cases assuming no third parties were harmed, and there were no differences in social rank, blood or marriage relations, blood feuds, religious reasons etc. which that society and its laws considered wholly or partially mitigating factors.

> People didn't think it was okay to commit crimes targeting child victims, they just didn't think of those things as crimes at all (which, at the time, they weren't).

See, this is the problem he's pointing out: if it wasn't considered ok, it would have been a crime. The point being that children as a whole weren't seen as a protected class the way they are now. At best, you might treat the child of a wealthy person well but only because of the consequences the father might inflict upon you, not because the child itself was worthy of that treatment.

People treated their children well enough for us to exist!

If we had a time machine and brought an ordinary American from the 1950's to the present, or asked ~40% of Americans nowadays, chances are they'd be horrified by what they'd see as the legalized murder of tens of millions of children (abortion). I'm not trying to bring politics into this (I'm strongly pro-choice), just pointing out that the definitions of "crime," "violent" and even "child" are highly subjective.

In any society I can think of which left a substantial enough written and/or archaeological record, it's clear that people were particularly affectionate towards and protective of children, which is the only way it could be since our brains and emotional/hormonal responses are literally wired that way.

That's in turn because those instincts are necessary for the continuation of the species. Objectively, it takes well over a decade of near-constant, stressful labor before a child provides net-positive economic utility, which, at historical life expectancies (early 40's), would usually be after one parent's and shortly before the other's death. So if we weren't hard-wired to want to care for and protect children, babies would be left to die of exposure and we'd die out after one generation.

Low life expectancies in the past weren't because most people died in their 40s / 50s. They were heavily depressed by infant and child mortality - if you survived to adulthood, you had a reasonable chance of living to a ripe old age.

I'm already adjusting upwards for that; life expectancies didn't reach 50 (in the US) until the 1920's[1], and the posts I'm responding to are talking about the Medieval period or earlier, when life expectancy at birth would've been 30 or so. Some people did live into their 60's or longer but they were very much the exception, even among adults.

[1] https://www.seniorliving.org/history/1900-2000-changes-life-...

That's incorrect. The average age of adult death was much higher, around 60 [1], ie. if you lived to 5 years old, you could expect to live another 55 years.

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy/

That was in the mid-19th century, which was a very different world from the Medieval period. From your own link, during the 18th century Swedish 10-year-olds lived on average into their mid-50’s. From that it can be reasonably extrapolated that 10-year-olds lived on average into their 40’s in (civilizations at the level of development of) Medieval and Classical-period Europe.

I was at a funeral recently, for an older person, but the same thought about losing lots of children very young came to me. Possibly inspired by the location, I wondered how much of religion was designed around somehow making sense of the death of children.

Until recently babies weren’t even destined for heaven, they went to limbo. It took an update being in 2007 for this feature to be added.

The people who come up with this crap hardly ease suffering.


heaven and limbo are christians concepts - if you are not a christian/catholic[1] (aka 6/7 of the world) and you find out a child dies, you presumably dont even give these things a second thought.


I was replying to a comment discussing heaven. But even without that it’s about a billion people and the HN crowd are not representative of world population. It would be interesting to see the demographics...

Having less children is a factor. I only have one child with no chance of a second. If I lose the one there is no concept of a future.

If you have more than one child there is a future because you have to carry on for your other children.

Well, there are still currently regions of the world where high child mortality is common. Stories from those areas might provide some insight on what you are wondering.

I once worked a summer job at a state park in Western, NY. One of the employees there was a leather-skinned rough type that mostly kept to himself.

One day, I'm not sure how it was brought up, he remarked to me that he once killed a 22 year-old man in a construction accident when he was operating a large crane.

It rocked his world, and he was never the same.

I can't imagine living with that amount of regret and anxiety. Trying to fix it in your head. What could I have done differently? But it never changes, and you can't undo what you did.

At the same time, there is ultimately forgiveness from both parties, though there is a lot of grief. Things will never be the same, but staying in the past is the best way to never move forward.

I really enjoyed (maybe not the best word...appreciated) the film "Manchester By the Sea" for reasons that this story reminds me of. My wife and some friends who have seen it said it was 'boring' and that 'nothing happened'. To me, the fact that 'nothing happened' was a very much the point; There was no grand character arc because for most people you just don't ever come back from an event like that. There is no major turnaround and everything is all better moment. You learn to live and maybe find some areas of your life that don't quite suck 24/7 if you can, but that may be all that's possible. I found it to be a very 'real' human story that isn't often told well.

To me, the fact that 'nothing happened' was a very much the point

Maybe nothing grand, but it's pretty hard to stomach movies that don't go anywhere at all. I come away wondering, what is the point? Why are you telling me this story?

There is no major turnaround and everything is all better moment. You learn to live

That's still 'something happened' and/or 'the movie went somewhere', and is acceptable.

> because for most people you just don't ever come back from an event like that

Is this even true? I think we tend to assume so but isn't it likely that many people simply move on with their lives? I mean Laura Bush was responsible for a fatal car accident and she seemed to do fine.

The article above talks about how many of the author's friends had no idea that the event happened to her, even though it was one of the most important events of her life. I imagine it's similar for many people who've endured a tragedy of some sort. At some point you have to stop talking about it because it doesn't help and you think that no one wants to hear it. It doesn't change how much the event has affected the trajectory of your life.

Beatifully put.

I was involved in a collision where the other driver crossed into my lane in front of me, so I hit the passenger side of the car. I incorrectly swerved towards the oncoming lane, so I hit the back of the vehicle. My vehicle was immobile and landed on the opposing shoulder, the oncoming vehicle ended up in the ditch on the side of the road I had been driving on.

The mother of the other driver was in the front passenger seat and the driver's baby was in the back seat. The mother of the driver was shocky, but they were all okay.

I'm still pretty glad I made the mistake.

Glad or sad?

Glad. I wasn't the cause of the collision but I responded to it incorrectly, in a way that made it much less likely for 2 people to die.

You have to feel terribly sad for everyone involved here. The only place the blame can rest is humanity's desire to mix very fast, solid vehicles with very slow, squishy pedestrians in the same spaces. We're way too far down that rabbit-hole to address it, but hopefully self-driving cars (and less polluting cars, too) will start to reverse the damage done by the automobile, in the not-too distant future.

"We're way too far down that rabbit-hole to address it"

That's BS. Sweden has essentially zero pedestrian fatalities annually, and its overall traffic fatality rate is well under a quarter that of the US.

There are two main components: reducing speed limits and spending money on infrastructure. Both of these are anathema in the US, but the refusal to do so is borderline criminal, IMO.



This seems to be a common excuse from people in the US "Oh yeah - well - of course you could do <something positive> in such a small place - the US is just too big for <something positive> to happen!"

I looked up some stats for the inevitable "But the US is bigger than that! We simply cannot solve this problem!" replies. The EU is pretty big too, but the fatality rate is half of that in the US despite being of comparable land-area.

US road fatalities per 1m population in 2013: 104 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_i...) EU road fatalities per 1m population in 2013: 51 (http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/...)

I've never understood that argument either, on any issue. Most states are smaller than countries, and if on the federal level there aren't any economies of scale or mind-share synergy, then something else is very wrong.

If a small country can do it, a large country should be able to do it much better, either per state if there's gain in small scale solutions, or on a federal level where you only have to solve the problem once for 30 times the population size.

Not to detract from your point but the US Federal government, shockingly, is incapable of passing necessary regulations and the Constitution forbids a State from passing their own versions. For instance, vehicle inspections, licensing standards, safety equipment, etc are all set at the Federal level. Cities can't forbid oversized trucking, require truck side guards, etc.

Likewise, stupendous amounts of Federal and State taxes are forcefully siphoned off into wasteful, money-losing highway programs. Money that could go towards safer transit, pedestrian, or biking initiatives.

Boston and Cambridge, MA have passed truck side rail laws. "Trucks over x height prohibited" and "Trucks over x weight prohibited" are common.

States and cities can do a lot, and in fact can do a lot more then the federal government because they don't have a 10th amendment restricting them.


Boston and Cambridge have required municipal trucks to have side rails. They can't compel anyone else to follow through. That's a tiny fraction of trucking that we see.

Vehicle inspections, at least, differ between states; AL doesn't currently require one annually. California has long had much stronger environmental regulations.

>California has long had much stronger environmental regulations.

But not safety which is the issue here.

The answer was: (1) speed limits, and (2) infrastructure

Are you saying local governments can't do those things?

When I look around San Francisco I see lots of space to build dedicated bike lanes, etc. In the Americans I see:

A) A lack of faith that anything can get better.

B) A willful disregard for other people (lack of empathy).

The distance driven per year per person in the US is twice that of the figure in the EU.

As an example for the prime driving age bracket, the average driver in the US, 20 to 55 years of age, drives nearly 30,000 KM per year.

In the EU it's half that.

You would expect fatalities to increase meaningfully when you double the distance driven per person.

The relevant statistic is fatalities per billion vehicle-kilometers, which attempts to even out that discrepancy, and leads to the same conclusion. Using this metric, the US still has twice the fatality rate than the UK.

> In the EU it's half that.

I'd like to see a source on that. I think the average American drives about 30% more.

The link/pdf below says 13,000km per driver in the EU. Other sources indicate 11,000km or 12,000km. Any of those work reasonably for this comparison.


The US figure is around 22,000km per person for 2017.

In Sweden for example it's closer to 12,000km per person.

There's a dramatic gulf between the distance driven in the US and most everywhere else.

The passenger vehicles per capita are also reasonably over twice that in the US as in the EU (driving is far more distributed and common per capita). Around 263m passenger vehicles in the US, and 250m in the EU, with the EU having ~743 million people.

If you double or nearly double the distance driven per year, and significantly increase the share of the population that drives, it's not far off to expect a doubling of fatalities vs what you see in the whole of the EU. In fact, I might expect worse than that, as if you're pulling so many km driving, you're probably likely to be driving more often under increased stress and inclimate weather circumstances, driving at times when you perhaps should not be etc. (due to no alternatives). The risk of a bad driving outcome likely accelerates with such substantial increases in km per capita. If you take the US figure on up to 50,000km per capita, I would expect to see an even greater acceleration of fatalities per capita.

I agree that fatalities can be expected to rise as miles driven rise, however these two data points are not so closely linked. For example, driving ten miles in western Kansas on I-70 at midday is not the same as driving ten miles in a metropolitan area filled with shopping centers, with the sun low on the horizon ahead of you and a dirty windshield.

There are many, many variables which complicate the study of traffic safety and my hat is off to any traffic engineers able to deliver meaningful results. It does happen, but it's far more complicated than tracking per capita miles driven (not that you were making this specific argument, just pointing out the obvious).

>but it's far more complicated than tracking per capita miles driven (not that you were making this specific argument, just pointing out the obvious).

x2. A drunk driver going off a cliff is uninteresting since it's a known problem with known solutions (regardless of your personal opinion on how adequate the implementation of those solutions is).

Stuff where no party did much that was unreasonable is what's interesting because those tell you what edge cases cause the system to fail.

That points towards (part of) the solution - yes, a key part of reducing fatalities would be restructuring infrastructure, society norms and zoning so that people drive significantly less. And that's why it's anathema in USA and not likely to happen.

Part of it is also due to the lack of decent public transit opportunities. I would love drive less to work if a decent transit option is open.

I read years ago that outside of inexperience and illness, (being very young or very old), your likelihood of an accident scales linearly with miles driven. So, unlike flying, distance increases risk in statistically meaningful ways.

That's correct. In the US, in part due to poor public transportation, people often drive when they basically should not. That includes everything from really bad weather, to while intoxicated. Just alcohol-impaired driving crashes alone account for 1/3 of all US traffic deaths each year.

The US is certainly too big for some things. But it's definitely not a good argument when we're talking about urban & suburban street design. How big the US is or isn't, means nothing when we're talking about how best to lay out a 5 mile by 5 mile plot of land for a town.

Have you spent any time living/driving in places like Houston or Atlanta or the suburbs of Chicago or Los Angeles? How about the bay area outside of SF?

Because if you have, I can't imagine how you'd think it's a solvable problem.

The US is too big... at least a lot of cities are, in terms of distance covered. EU benefits from population growth pre car-era. Density necessitates lower speeds and smaller roads, and good luck regulating US cities into that state.

> Density necessitates lower speeds and smaller roads, and good luck regulating US cities into that state.

Most European cities dream of having the same amount of road space US cities have.

Yet, many European cities build dedicated bike lanes... It takes serious political will-power to close of roads from cars.

It's lack of "will" do something, nothing more.

Reducing speed limits and designing roadways to discourage high speeds.

But yeah, I like to measure annual traffic fatalities in 9/11s. Here in the US, we typically do >10 of them per year. We toppled the governments of two countries, created a whole new department of our federal government, and continue to advance prosthetics at a breakneck pace to fix the men and women we send to be disfigured overseas as a response to just one single 9/11.

It’s a question of political will. We’ve become comfortable with the level of death, dismemberment, and disfigurement associated with transportation as we’ve built it in this country.

>Reducing speed limits and designing roadways to discourage high speeds.

One of these works. One of these handicapps your infrastructure's capacity, reduces safety in certain conditions and has a handful of other negative externalities.

I would wager that were it not for someone following the speed limit the woman in OP's story would not have been cruising along in a line of traffic with her situational awareness diminished by limited visibility and temptation to follow the leader without giving her full attention to driving.

Traffic is safer when segregated by type (e.g. you don't ride a bike on the highway) and/or speed.

You can design roads to reduce speed but just posting a different sign has minimal positive effect so better limiting/controlling interaction between different types/speeds of traffic on roads you already have (e.g. adding sidewalks or bike lanes) works better there.

> You can design roads to reduce speed but just posting a different sign has minimal positive effect so better limiting/controlling interaction between different types/speeds of traffic on roads you already have (e.g. adding sidewalks or bike lanes) works better there.

As a cyclist, my observation is that "share the road" signs are strongly negatively correlated with how well drivers treat cyclists. The signs are a response to bad driving but do little to improve bad driving. In effect they should be considered warnings to cyclists put up by the government to cover their asses, because it's obvious to me that almost no drivers notice them. The presence of the sign means that drivers mistreat cyclists here, and not much else. I try my best to avoid any roads with one of those signs.

Cyclists are as often as not part of the problem where I live. I am both a cyclist and a driver and it influences my behavior in both cases. It is fairly easy to spot cyclists that do not drive (when they are over the age where they could have a driving license) and drivers that never cycle.

Interesting. What distinguishes driving age cyclists who don't drive from those who do?

The ones that do have a much better grip on what your average car driver will most likely do. A simple example: there is a road near my house where cars and bikes simply have to mix because there is no bike path. When I am cycling and I see a car approaching I will keep further right than non driving cyclists because I know the edge of road on the far side is soft and cars are likely to avoid that edge. Another is that I realize that if I can not see the driver of a car in his mirrors he likely will not be able to see me and I will adjust my behavior, even if it is my ´right of way´, such as when continuing straight on the same road as a car but on the right hand side and the car has a turn signal on.

I think the big picture goal of reducing speeds is much more than putting up a different sign. There's a whole movement out there pushing for denser development, reduced car-driven-development, and streets that are truly lower speed, not simply highways rebranded with different signs.

Segregating types & speeds of traffic is still good though, especially dedicated trails for pedestrian and/or bike traffic.

Maybe if all the traffic fatalities occurred on the same day each year it would be a more apt comparison. I bet you'd see some political will power then.

Well, if we’re doing > 10 9/11s per year, and we’ve had 16 years of comparison since 9/11, my back-of-a-napkin reasoning suggests we’re almost half way to a year’s worth of 9/11s.

Another reason the 9/11 comparison is not so great: from a mass-social-psychology POV it was (a) very easy to blame an out-group (terrorists), and (b) the singular nature of the event represented a tremendous opportunity for a huge power-grab by the government. With traffic fatalities (a) we largely have only ourselves to blame, and (b) there is no big power-grab to be found.

On the other hand, now that we've had a few terrorist incidents where vehicles were used to plow through groups of pedestrians, there is kind of a perverse intersection of these two issues. Also, there has been a proliferation of bollards in areas where such attacks are considered a risk.

Lastly, your point about the psychology of risk is well taken. I can't remember where I saw (perhaps it was a comedian?) the lament that climate change doesn't have a beard and turban.

Maybe it wasn't a "big" power-grab, but the lives of the rural poor have certainly been made worse by all of our egregious drunk driving laws, and the cops and courts dedicated to their zealous persecution.

You've been downvoted for saying so, but you're right, impaired driving laws has drastically altered rural culture. The center of that culture was the house party, and the only way to get to those is to drive.

But what really killed that culture was the internet. The expression was: "There are only two types of entertainment in a small town: drinking and fucking". Now teenagers just spend all day playing Call of Duty.

At least they're not regularly dying in drunken car accidents like they used to: in my high school we lost well over 1% of our students to it.

Not worse. Better.

I wasn't really talking about "rural house party culture"; I'll take your word on that. b^)

What I mean is, whenever I have to go to the county courthouse (entirely for civil matters!), there is a constant stream of poor men and poor women attempting to stay out of jail so they can keep their jobs, pay the costs for their previous jail stays, keep their licenses so the asshole deputies don't just park outside their place of employment at shift's end, get custody of their children back from the last time they were sent to jail...

No decent purpose is served by the unending cycle of punishment, and drunk driving laws are a cog in that infernal machine. I guess I'm glad that the drunk driving crusaders are too busy feeling superior to notice the plight of those who suffer so that they can feel good. If they did notice all the misery they cause poor families, they'd probably be even happier with themselves.

yes the usual effect of panic when one plane falls but complete ignorance when thousands die on roads every year, and many more end up crippled for rest of their lives.

as for war efforts, it is a very good business to few. they are few relative to the rest of the country, but their influence on politics is profound, hence the result.

This is just back of the envelope math here, but I think it will cost the US a significant amount more dollars per fatality reduction. We have a huge number more cars and a very different culture and driving mindset. One relative small country with a pretty singular culture and a much, much smaller amount of roads is just going to have an easier time addressing the issue. It is still worth pursuing, but the scale of it is tremendous. I am hoping technology can outpace the politics myself.

If the US has more cars per capita and more fatalities per capita, that increases the denominator, meaning that these policies would be cheaper per fatality and per car than they are in Sweden.

Save for the interstate highway infrastructure, most roads are done at the state or county level anyway. If you simply start doing this stuff a roads are upgraded (some can be done now and might bring in money), you aren't really spending lots more.

You can change the driving culture and mindset, starting by designing roads that generally cause folks to drive slower, implemented at next upgrade. You can more strictly enforce driving laws, especially things like speeding or being distracted. Revamp curves that have lots of accidents. Offer larger access to public transportation.

> Broken_Hippo 1 hour ago [-]

Save for the interstate highway infrastructure, most roads are done at the state or county level anyway. If you simply start doing this stuff a roads are upgraded (some can be done now and might bring in money), you aren't really spending lots more. You can change the driving culture and mindset, starting by designing roads that generally cause folks to drive slower, implemented at next upgrade

You mean you can get voted out of office for implementing these policies.

> You mean you can get voted out of office for implementing these policies.

Probably... There is nothing reasonably stopping the US from being nicer, only it's voters.

Maybe the problem is that US voters don't care much about the body count (probably an issue in most Americans politices).

Haha. Very possible, but also depends if people feel inconvenienced enough to be angry afterwards. If it also improves traffic flow, it might be a win most ways.

Read up on the dynamic tolling political fights. Whoo boy, when you start actually charging people for driving (or inconvieniencing them in any fashion), the flamewars get pretty hot pretty fast.

See, that's the thing. There are a lot of thing we can do without actually charging folks outside of tax dollars. Take one of the more simple ones: Stricter traffic policing, especially in neighborhoods and people-prone (and therefore pedestrian-prone) areas. People can avoid any fines, and we can even pre-warn folks about it.

Now, some folks will be upset they can't go as fast and stuff, but they get used to it.

Some things aren't even obvious to folks, like roads designed to decrease speed. Generally, they are narrower rather than wider. I'm not sure folks will put the two together. Roundabouts? Well-timed streetlights, so long as you are going the speed limit? The first folks complain about, the second gets folks to go the speed limit.

The thing I'd personally implement that would get outcry is increased drivers education, which would increase cost. Id' have everyone take an actual course unless they have previously held a license in recent years. I think some exception could probably be made for farm families (special license for equipment and off-road vehicles) and quell the outcry a little bit.

Could you expound on how the culture and mindset is different? I can imagine what it would be, but don't want to just jump to stereotypes..

You’re reading the cultural difference right now. The story is about a dead kid but we are invited mainly to sympathize with the perpetrator. We are also expected to take on faith the “he darted out of nowhere” narrative that is very common in fatal collisions where the victim is unable to testify. Finally, we are treated to a dose of the “it could have been any of us” windshield perspective that prevents the USA from having any kind of fairness or justice for traffic violence.

Yeah, if the child had been 7yo rather than 4yo one rather suspects he would have been accused of riding a bicycle, putting him firmly beyond the pale of what a driver in a hurry should have to worry about...

In Europe you generally have to be 18 to get your drivers license, and rigorous study is required to obtain a drivers license. 40-50 hours of driving with an instructor (depending on your talent), and a test that I as a reasonably intelligent person had to take three times to pass.

Note that this makes getting your license fairly expensive (on the order of 1500 to 2000 euro), some parents save up for this like American parents save for their childrens college, others simply work a part time job or wait until they've finished college to get the license. I feel that the way the US is structured this alone makes it infeasible to implement these requirements, you can't be 30 and not have a license in US suburbs.

It's infeasible for a lot of reasons.

The €1500 cost would be meaningless in the US for most people. The median parents purchase a vehicle for their children directly or otherwise assist them in acquiring one, at far greater cost. That level of license cost wouldn't have any impact for the average person.

Where those variations would have a huge impact, is for poor people, overwhelmingly black and hispanic in the US. Any attempt to implement that licensing approach would be called out as being racist or otherwise discriminatory. I'm not exaggerating or making light of it, I'm being dead serious. That's exactly what would occur. I'll leave it to others to debate whether it would in fact be racist, I'm sure some (most?) of that opinion is determined by one's position in society and how each person feels discriminated against or not.

The US has a substantial bifurcation between the top ~60% and the bottom ~40%, roughly speaking. The top 60% is overwhelmingly white + asian. The gap between access to quality driving instruction / education, the ability to pay licensing costs of €1500, etc. would separate along that division (ie white/asian and black/hispanic). It would impact poorer people in a significant way, and barely impact non poor people.

If the US were to adopt a stricter approach, to convince everyone that it was fair, it'd be necessary to put meaningful resources into providing greater driving education opportunities to poorer people, and probably adjusting the licensing cost based on household income (if your family makes $30,000 the fee is $250; if your family makes $90,000 the fee is $1500 or whatever).

Depends of what you mean by Europe... For example, in Romania it's a few hundred euros (~300-400€).

Not the OP, but my take on it would be that every State is different from each other, and even within the State there's differences. Take a look at where I live, Texas. Dallas will be different than Austin which will be different than Houston. Any metropolitan area, even within the same borders, will have different culture and mindset than another. Compare that to another State and the divide only widens.

Most countries are fairly homogenous, which lends itself to a singular-ish mindset and culture. The US is not really one country, it's a melting pot (remember that word from social studies?) of many different cultures and ideas. That's one of the big reasons why we can't really be compared to any other country on many topics. Every locale is different, in many cases fundamentally, and that's part of the point of the Federal-State system we have.

> Most countries are fairly homogenous, which lends itself to a singular-ish mindset and culture.

I see this stated a lot by folks in Europe vs. the US discussions, but having visited both I'm pretty baffled by it. Switzerland has four national languages - hop on a train for an hour or two and you may go from French to German areas. The folks in Paris would laugh at the idea that they've got the same culture as Provence. Same with northern vs. southern Italy, Moscow vs. Siberia, etc.

America may be made of up people with anncestry from all over the world, but we have a very homogenous culture. The only major differences are urban, suburuban and rural, but rural people in California are pretty similar to rural people in Virigina.

I'd disagree. I've been to both. Rural California has a very different mindset than say the rural parts of the Appalachians. Out there, there's a fierce push for independence and self-sufficiency. A lot of that comes from just regional outlooks on life, government, rights, and more. Having been from California, the whole "Southern Hospitality" thing surprised me and just the general way people treat random strangers, as a very simple example.

Stockholm and Lapland have significantly different cultures, infrastructure requirements, populations et cetera. We can argue which has the bigger difference, but we should be able to agree that the differences are similar in kind.

Lapland (Sweden) is about 100,000 km^2, about the same as Kentucky, although if you add Finland's Lapland, you something much more comparable to Wyoming, which is a good match density wise, too: about 2 / km^2.

Sweden's traffic fatality rate (3.5 / 10^9 vehicle km; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-r...) is roughly comparable to that of Massachusetts (3.25 / 10^9 v. km; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_safety_in_the_U...). (Sorry, I couldn't find pedestrian numbers.) On the other hand, the Czech Republic is worse than South Carolina.

For context, Massachusetts has the lowest fatality rate of all US states.

Wow. As a Massachusetts driver, I would not have expected that. I've traveled pretty extensively within the US and Europe and I (and many, many others) consider Massachusetts, or at least the Boston metro area, to have the worst drivers.

Three possible explanations for the low fatality rate:

- Bars, nightclubs and stores that sell alcohol must close by 2 AM, plus our other state and local alcohol sales regulations (particularly on hard liquor) are among the most restrictive of any state.

- The additional fatalities caused by the relatively high number of bad drivers are more than offset by forcing the silent majority of good drivers (and pedestrians) to maintain concentration and alertness.

- Many elderly drivers move to warmer states, and the ones who stay tend to be in better health than the ones who leave.

Edit: A fourth possible factor is that we're one of the most affluent states and cars succumb to corrosion faster than average due to the long, harsh winters (off the top of my head, I can't think of any state that's both more affluent and has longer winters), so cars are newer (therefore, safer) than average.

It's more likely due to Massachusetts' high degree of urbanization. Urban areas have slower traffic. Slower traffic is less deadly.

See Jeff Speck's "AMERICAN CAR-NAGE" passage in Walkable City: https://books.google.com/books?id=kbfeAQAAQBAJ&lpg=PA37&ots=...

I'd assume it's just that Boston traffic is so slow that it's impossible to get up to speed enough to kill anybody - all the fast traffic is on expressways like the Mass Pike, which are far safer because of controlled access.

Slow traffic just plain doesn't kill people.

Sprawl and exurb farming country is where fatalities happen. That's where people are driving fast but without the protection that expressways provide. Massachusetts is one of the most urbanized states, and has less of that fatality-prone terrain.

I'm not sure I really buy that; Massachusetts is bigger than just Boston (which has plenty of "fast" roads, e.g. Storrow Drive) and has roads of all shapes, speeds and sizes, including a great deal of "sprawl" in the suburbs (~6X the population of urban Boston/Somerville/Cambridge) and half the state by land area worth of "exurb farming country."

IME, driving in Boston seems to involve the most potentially-deadly situations given the number of pedestrians and cyclists. Twice in the past year driving on Comm Ave I've had to swerve into the left lane to avoid hitting one, first a cyclist who blasted through a red light at an intersection, then a woman who, on her phone, dressed all in black at night, stepped directly in front of me in 30mph traffic, half a double-length block from the nearest crosswalk or stoplight.

If I had glanced at my phone, adjusted the radio, talked to a passenger or otherwise had less-than-instant reflexes in either of those moments those people might well be dead, or else severely injured. (Also, I and others could've been injured or worse if I'd swerved into another car).

Another explanation:

- You are demonstrating the difference between anecdotes and data. Massachusetts' drivers aren't worse than than those elsewhere.

No, people from out of state complain about MA drivers too (who are known as "Massholes" in the rest of New England). If you want data, take the interstate through MA and some other states and count the number of lane changes with and without turn signals.

And SC had the highest. Couldn't find comparable numbers for the rest of the EU.

You have to take into consideration cultural and social factors too. In my experience people in the US drive very dangerously no matter the traffic laws.

One of the craziest encounters in my life was driving on a windy rural road and getting stuck behind a tractor. The road was so windy there was no passing zones for miles. It was frustrating, yes, but part of driving on that kind of road. Eventually a driver came behind me. Without skipping a beat he or she passed both of us (illegal) in a no passing zones (also illegal) and ON A BLIND CORNER! Nobody was coming but that driver had zero way to tell that.

My heart still jumps a little just thinking about it.

Another issue happened in Brooklyn. I was driving on a narrow residential street with cars parked on both sides going a little over 20mph. I did not feel safe going any faster as a kid could jump out between the parked cars at any time. Guy comes up behind me and just lays on the horn for a good couple blocks (it's NYC after all). Then the car passes me illegally and took off going at least 40 mph.

I have to disagree here. Americans drive pretty nice and relaxed. Not much different from e.g. Sweden or Germany.

But much more relaxed than in Greece, Italy, China, or Thailand, or even Russia.

We must not be driving on the same roads. I've only been to a single town in the US that the majority of drivers are polite and seemingly safe.

I agree with the sentiment that there is something you can do about it, but Sweden has a road fatality rate of 2.8/100'000/year.

I live in the UK where we have a road fatality rate of 2.9/100'000/year. On average 1 child dies and ~60 are seriously injured every week.

I don't know how much further this accident/death rate can be decreased - but I agree that we are down a rabbit hole - is it acceptable that this happens? Obviously not. But are the population going to agree to ban cars? No.

And way more intensive driver training, car inspections, etc.

Not essentially zero. Around 10 % of road fatalities in Sweden are pedestrians (somewhere around 30 per year) for a population of 10 million.

Swedish: http://www.vibilagare.se/nyheter/260-doda-i-trafiken-2015

Except reducing speed limits really don't change the speed at which people drive.


Changing the number on a sign doesn't work, but enforcement, designing roads for appropriate speeds, and providing separated infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists does.

the other reply is correct, but i had a hard time understanding the point without a concrete example: making the roads narrower with visual cues regarding your speed causes people to slow down.

Sweden may also have more stringent license requirements...

And? If they play an important role in the difference, we should adopt them.

You're talking about a country that is the size of a large state. I really wish there were state initiatives to work on infrastructure that makes sense for their territory and people.

Once you adjust per capita (which I did when I said the rate of fatalities), most of the usual excuses fall away. Sweden has areas with similar population densities to NYC and to Alaska, a more diverse population than you'd expect, similar per capita income, etc.

Sweden has about as many people as singular metro areas in the US (smaller than some). Talking about reducing road fatalities in Chicago would be a similar scale.

About 15% of Swedes live in the Stockholm urban area, about the same proportion as Texas and Florida combined.

Texas and Florida combined have 5 times the population of Sweden, twice the area, and far more roadways. Solutions are more complicated in the US due to size, population, and broad political, economic, and geographic complexity. Stop trying to equate this tiny nation with one of the most populated and largest.

That was my point. 15% of Sweden's population live in 1 (one) urban area. You can reasonably compare it to some individual states, but in that case you get similar results, too.

The US is 22 times the size of Sweden. And you're not going to convince me that it's any where near as diverse, even with the new immigrants. I'm agreeing with you that I would love such an initiative, just that it only makes sense to carry it out at the state level. But I will say it's pretty arrogant to claim it's our situation is criminal.


America has more fatal pedestrian crashes because everyone lives further apart?

That's exactly the mindset. Nobody cares enough to change their routine even an iota, and it makes all these words ring rather hollow.

American road infrastructure is owned and controlled at the state/local level. The Feds don't even own the Interstate system, and the standards for it are set by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

The original commenter was saying the US is criminally liable for not being as amazing as Sweden. So it sounded like they were saying the fed needs to swoop in and fix their mess. That's where I was coming from anyways.

"Borderline criminal" tends to be a rhetorical way of saying "they should be ashamed". Even if it was literal, states can be liable, and as the primary folks in charge of road infrastructure, they'd be the targets.

> I really wish there were state initiatives to work on infrastructure that makes sense for their territory and people.

That's, like, a huge part of what state governments do. Well, except perhaps the “makes sense” part, but that's largely do to the same political problems that affect federal governance, not some particular failure of the states.

Right. It is interesting to read the early history of the automobile in the U.S. Many of the pedestrian deaths in the early days were children. Speed governor laws were proposed but ultimately rejected. Motordom won the day. Now it is built into our society that people have to be super vigilant whenever we walk outside. Kids have to always be careful and limited to where they can play. It is sad how much of our freedom to roam has been lost in the U.S.

Well, people had to be careful before the automobile too, you know. People could by killed by horses or wagons. The introduction of the automobile didn't make it suddenly unsafe to be in the street.

A collision with a horse and wagon might break your leg, but it's highly unlikely to kill you. That's one of the main points of "Vision Zero" that I linked. Any collision at speeds less than 20mph has a very low fatality risk.

This (https://www.quora.com/Were-carriage-accidents-more-or-less-c...) had some links and summarizes them as motor vehicles causing 40% more fatalities (in 2014) than horse carriages in 1907-1911. That's in the same ballpark, anyway.

You can argue the specifics, but it seems modern recreational horseback riding is fairly dangerous. http://freakonomics.com/2006/08/28/whoa-nellie/

In that freakonimics article it mentions that Matthew Broderick killed a mother and daughter by dangerous driving [0]: http://www.nndb.com/people/785/000022719/

Horses had a habit of not trampling people if they could avoid it, regardless of the driver’s own intent. They were in many ways like self driving cars.

These things (safety) aren’t binary. Just because it wasn’t absolutely false before doesn’t mean it was much more true after.

Horses are evil creatures that will stop your head in. The difference between now and then is we dont have an agency that keeps track of horse related deaths then.

I grew up around a lot of horses and this was not my experience. But then those horses were all geldings and mares; stallions have a reputation for being mean bastards but I don't know if that's true or an urban legend.

The key difference is speed. One of the earliest speeding laws considered was the automobile cannot go faster than a horse and wagon which is about 10-15 mph. It is much easier to stop in time, or get out of the way, when at 15 mph rather than 30 mph.

Horses and wagons are loud. As were the earliest cars.

While I upvoted you for the initial part of your comment, I do not support the autonomous car argument, as I can't see how an autonomous car can avoid an accident of the sort cited in the article, namely an object or a person darting in front of a vehicle moving with enough velocity to be unable to come to a stop immediately.

Human reaction time to unexpected events is at least 400 mS. Autonomous car reaction time can be as low as 40 mS. You can slow down a lot in those 360 mS (about 6 mph) which can turn a fatal accident into a moderate one.

The vast majority of accidents are due to sloppy, aggressive, or distracted driving, which autonomous vehicles will completely eliminate.

I kind of doubt it in this case. If a person darted on to the road from behind an object that obstructs the sensors of an autonomous vehicle, in a distance of about a couple meters, slowing down quickly enough is probably not possible (though IDK much about cars, really). But such a vehicle would be able to steer away in some cases, but then it puts itself and the passengers in danger (i.e. hitting another moving vehicle or a stationary object nearby).

I believe autonomous vehicles are a huge overkill for what can easily be solved via decent public transportation. Public transportation via autonomous / centrally controlled vehicles would be way easier if the amount of private cars on the roads were reduced. And I'd guesstimate that a great majority of people using cars could easily switch to electric bicycles or mopeds. And that's a huge step forwards, as these vehicles are less likely to kill you if they hit you, and can steer away more easily. Add to that them being way more clean and fuel- and space-efficient in comparison to cars, leading to much more efficient use of both road- and parking-space, and of raw fuel. Also, this may be a local phæenomenon, but lots of large chain-stores offer delivery services, along with many small shops. In my quartier in the Northern European parts Istanbul, I can order from a bunch of chain stores, lots of restaurants (using yemeksepeti.com) and many tobacco shops.

Perhaps the car sensors would have seen the child moving, he was hidden just before he ran out into the road but he probably wasn't hiding waiting to jump out.

So there's a chance that the cars sensors would spot him. Plus the sensors will be tied to the speed the car is doing so will always attentively watching in the range of where children can come from.

Further to this you can plug this kind of data into an autonomous vehicle and train it to avoid kids.

Humans will probably never have proper driving simulation testing like pilots do because it's too expensive.

So in these extreme events I'm confident that autonomous cars will be better prepared. Perhaps there will still be cases where the child still dies but it will be less.

On a very cynical level, autonomous cars will still help. If the person in the article had been a passenger in the car when they hit the child, they would undoubtedly feel far less guilt about the incident, and their life would have been far less affected as a result.

Is this a question that has a legal answer, at least in the US where autonomous vehicles seem to be most in vogue, that what party is guilty in an autonomous vehicle accident? Because in an autonomous vehicle every person is a passenger. The only person that can be blamed at all is the pedestrian victim of the accident, no? Also, in an accident which involves two vehicles, on whom will the damages be? Certainly none of the persons in the cars, no?

That’s my hope. Yesterday a 12 year old kid on a bike was hit by a car where I live.

It was dark, and I don’t have the exact details. The kid was coming from behind a parked car, it was 7pm so night, so I guess it’s the same kind of story that happened (beside the fact that a lot of people here are really bad drivers).

I’m so looking forward the time when human will stop driving by themselves. Of course there will be trade offs, most surely on the tracking side, but I’m deeply confident that accident rates will fall drastically.

No one should have to live with the feelings of having killed anyone, especially if not responsible. Let’s hope technology will finally prevent that.

> Let’s hope technology will finally prevent that.

Funny, because it's technology that caused the death in the first place. Maybe consider how to get rid of the car?

How many deaths would getting rid of modern transportation cause? You can't just measure something by the negatives.

Lots of everyday technology has the potential to cause death. People sometimes get hit by trains and those run on tracks. Whether the advantage of using the technology outweigh the downsides is always the tradeoff we need to decide on with an eye on trying to eliminate the downsides as much as possible while retaining the benefits.

True, just pointing out the irony of waiting for technology to fix technology.

True, but is it any more ironic than continuing to bring more people into existence with such typical cheery optimism despite the fact that the very act of doing so also condemns them at some point to die a certain death?

Hit by a driver.

Yes, that’s what I say. Let’s get rid of drivers and let the car drive itself. Of course when the technology will be mature enough.

We do it for planes for years so why not for cars.

> but hopefully self-driving cars

Think more boldly: public transportation.

The OG self-driving tech. Side benefit, you get more than small marginal, theoretical gains in terms of the numbers of people who can be transported, especially at peak demand times!

That's not bold, that's meek. Self driving cars are the bold. Public transport means travelling to somewhere I don't want to go, so I can be taken somewhere else I don't want to go but is closer to where I do want to go.

I want to walk out my front door, get into an "auto Uber" or whatever, and be let out at the front door of my work.

A willingness to change your lifestyle is what is bold.

I'll change my lifestyle: to something that is more convenient, not less. If you want to go against cars, increase telecomuting, don't force even more people to a bloody train station.

There's no reason self driving cars/vehicles can't be public transportation. Most likely there will be a segment just like that.

A slightly larger, electric, van type vehicle, that holds ten people, for public group commuting. It would be a solid improvement over present circumstances and would probably work quite well, and cost effectively, for poorer working class people.

I like that idea.

The sentiment I've seen more commonly expressed is — I still want a car for each adult in my household so we can each go where we want, when we want. I'm spoiled and prefer that as well but I know in my heart it is selfish and not sustainable.

Self-driving cars can be the last mile solution to public transportation that is limited by the efficiency of transporting larger numbers of people to a limited set of destinations.

True. Walking is another last mile solution for all but the handicapped and elderly.

No innovation can survive one-sided scrutiny of this type:

you should at least factor in the number of children saved because of the availability of fast-moving vehicles to get them timely help.

Given the steady rise of childhood life expectancies during our fall down this "rabbit hole", your logic breaks down pretty catastrophically. At least without more support than comparing the relative squishiness of these two objects.

That's a surprisingly good point, and it's the first time I've seen it brought up in discussions about car accidents here.

I wonder if there are statistics out there estimating the amount of lives saved thanks to quick response enabled by cars (e.g. ambulances).

OTOH, this can get quickly confounded with the second-order impact of cars - e.g. that medical facilities would be closer to people were it not for the possibility to deliver them there by car.

> OTOH, this can get quickly confounded with the second-order impact of cars - e.g. that medical facilities would be closer to people were it not for the possibility to deliver them there by car.

we've already got to use helicopters to flight-for-life folks from one hospital to another because it is impractical to build & staff enough of the specialized emergency medical care you might happen to need when something terrible happens.

(not to mention all the certificate-of-need crap that keeps hospital availability artificially limited.)

I'm hoping that pedestrian collisions will be reduced to nearly zero thanks to the rise of autonomous braking(don't they have to be installed in every new car by 2020?), long before anything reassembling self-driving cars is available. My own car has already given me a solid scare when a toy ball rolled onto the road from in between the parked cars and my car has stopped before I could even react - surely enough, there were kids playing behind the cars and they went out to get their toy.

What kind of car do you have?

I got a new Toyota Corolla (lease, fortunately) with autonomous braking, but it seems to be a “slow down by 5mph pre-collision” sort of system rather than an “avoid the collision” sort of system. Seeing the Subaru system in action gives me faith, but you pay the premium.

Mercedes-Benz GLA - it does stop down to zero, at least at lower speeds. This video shows how it works:


Blame is most naturally attributed to the party that brings the 2-ton death machine to the incident. It was like that in USA, when automobiles were first introduced. The laws only changed as a result of decades of dishonest public relations and bribery on the part of the automobile industry.

Autonomous cars could actually lead to increases in road deaths (or at least, less pressure to improve road safety, and hence less potential reduction in deaths), because people would be far less invested in the accident. There would always be someone else to potentially blame: the manufacturer of the vehicle, the programmer of the software, the creators of the sensors, or even the owner of the vehicle not cleaning the sensors enough. Every party could make a compelling case for why someone else was the cause of the death. There would be more people with blood on their hands, but those people would feel less responsible and be even further removed from the actual incident.

Has that ever happened before in the American or other western legal system? It seems highly unlikely that no one would be assigned blame. Heck, we already have cars driven for us (taxis) and the blame for an accident is attributed to the driver, that wouldn’t change if the driver was a computer, the legal syste, wouldn’t simply shutdown.

Well, it happened in the original article. The driver was not charged with killing someone.

Even if blame is cast, in the autonomous future that blame would be upon a company, or multiple companies, whose legal departments will spend great effort diverting the blame onto other people or other companies. No one individual will be charged with killing someone, and no one person will have a death on their conscience.

You are conveniently leaving out civil liability. Yes, the self driving car won’t be put in jail because it didn’t have a murderous intent or wasn’t criminally negligent (e.g. drunk). But damn, if it kills someone, at least the insurance company will have to pay up (as it most definitely did in this case); kill more than a few people with your self driving car and you can bet there will be a recall, well, lawsuits, massive hits to financial performance, and so on. Death has consequences.

It really is the same with doctor malpractice, the doctor doesn’t go to jail because their patient died because they made a mistake. Transforming civil negligence into criminal negligence as you seem to be hinting at would be a horrible system.

But again, the civil liability will be on companies, who are even further removed from the direct, visceral experience of killing a person. Like you, I'm sure that there was an insurance company paying out some money for funeral costs in the original accident. To the insurers, it will be business as usual, they have been doing this for many years.

My guess is, the pressure for advances in road safety over the years have mainly come from activists, people, individuals who have seen and felt the horror of road deaths. The pressure to improve cars is much less from companies facing rising insurance costs due to liability fines. Indeed, the scandals that we routinely hear about are from car manufacturers avoiding recalls because it is far cheaper to just pay out liability claims when they happen, knowing that they will often not face them.

With the removal of drivers from road killings, there will be fewer people feeling the results of road casualties. I don't mean in any way to ignore the families of those killed on the road, of course their anguish and suffering will always be there and will be brutal. But the fact remains, there will be fewer people witnessing and feeling the effects of road deaths. And so it follows that there could well be less pressure to improve road safety.

Civil liability will be on company bottom lines (or their insurers), yes you can't put a price on life but you can punish non-criminal negligence financially. The insurers make their money by raising premiums on those who are higher risk, so there is still a financial disincentive to not screw it up.

Civil negligence can turn into criminal negligence when deception is involved (see VW).

Self driving cars are the ultimate in road safety though, I mean, you cannot encode them to willfully disobey traffic laws (or doing so would be criminal negligence). Pretty sure they will initially be fleet vehicles anyways. The death rate will surely go down, no one with any credibility is predicting otherwise, but there will always people berating the few deaths that remain.

The legal system has already solved this problem because liability isn't exclusive. For a product that the operator and owner are required to maintain in safe condition, where there is contribution of a defect in some component, it's possible for the operator, owner, the whole sales chain, the manufacturer and the supplier of the defective component to all be fully liable, and for none of them to be able to avoid that liability because the others also could be held liable.

Autonomous cars aren't special, even among cars, in this concern, and it's not a remotely new problem for the legal system.

I'm not suggesting that the legal system would throw their hands up and exclaim "There's too many possible parties at fault! Let's not blame any of them!" Instead, as you say, many parties could be held liable. Notably absent will be any one individual, i.e. the human driver of a car. No-one will be left feeling remorse. The writer of the original article could not get the death out of their mind. That won't happen to the developer of faulty collision avoidance AI code.

Sounds like something out of a futuristic movie with large class divides. Rich person sits in autonomous car that hits poor child, car stops and legalese starts being printed all over the car, rich person calmly gets out and into second car without even breaking their video conference. "What was that?" "oh, nothing"

25ish years ago I was driving my Toyota MR2 along the Cowley Road in Oxford on a Sunday morning, heading for an out of town supermarket, to pick up some groceries. Two teenage girls ran out from behind a bus that was waiting at a stop on the other side of the road, right into my path. Those who've been in a road traffic accident will know that time slows down the instant you know things are out of control. I stood on the brakes, the anti-lock braking kicked in and I slowed rapidly enough for the first girl to evade my bumper. But not the second. She went up and over. There was an almighty thud as she hit the roof, then rolled down the back, over the spoiler and onto the road. I jumped out of the car and ran back. The girl I hit was bloodied and confused. Her unscathed friend helped her to the side of the road, and I accosted passers to find someone with a mobile phone; they were rare in those days. Someone made the 999 call, and I moved my car off the main road and on to a side street, where a bystander congratulated me on not doing a runner (1), and offered a badly needed cigarette. An ambulance and police car turned up sharpish. Fortunately the girl I hit suffered cuts, bruises and shock alone. Not one broken bone. The police breathalysed me, and found me clear. I'd had a couple of pints the night before in the local, but it hadn't been a big sesh, so I was sober as a judge. Nevertheless, I was badly shaken. I drove home instead of going to the supermarket, and headed to my local for a large Scotch and a pint to calm my nerves. Some weeks later I was summonsed: the injured girl's mother was suing me. In British civil law, the driver is always culpable in an accident involving a minor, even if sober and below the speed limit, which I was. There was no need for me to turn up in court, as no facts about the accident was disputed. Compensation was awarded, the insurer paid up, and the matter was closed. Moral of the story: there but for the grace of God, don't drink & drive. Thought: who is culpable when it's a self driving car? Lasting impression: the brief few millisecs when I knew I was going to hit a child, and there was nothing I could do about it, were terrifying.

As someone who used to love sports cars and driving, I can't wait for the day when self driving cars become a reality. I also had an incident around the same age. At the time I was driving a slightly modified Miata/MX-5 with a loud exhaust that doubled as my weekend autocross toy. The neighborhood kids used to yell "nice car!" as I drove by every day. One day I left late at night to meet some friends and I was driving around an unlit bend in the neighborhood when my headlights lit up two children laying down in the road directly in the path of my car. I don't know what I was thinking (I didn't really have time to think), but instead of braking, I just slalomed around them as if they were a cone. They couldn't have been more than foot or so from my tires. I never stopped to ask them if they were OK. I just kept driving and thinking about that moment for several hours. "What the hell were they doing laying down in the road? Was I driving too fast? Why didn't they move out of the road when they heard my loud car coming?" To make matters worse, while I was driving the average speed everyone else drives on that road, my loud exhaust probably made it seem like I was speeding. For the next several months the neighborhood kids yelled "slow down!" every time I passed them and I just cowered down in fear. Even though no one was hit or injured, that incident has stuck with me and I sometimes remember it when these stories come up and question how different my life could have been if I hit them.

> I don't know what I was thinking (I didn't really have time to think), but instead of braking, I just slalomed around them as if they were a cone.

I don't think having a default response of standing on the brake regardless of the circumstance is the best response. I have no idea whether or not you were far enough away to brake successfully -- it sounds like maybe you didn't at the time either. But if you evaded a collision then you 100% made the right choice.

The only collision that was ever my fault was from sliding attempting to brake in wet conditions. If I had attempted to maneuver, I maybe would have avoided it.

>In British civil law, the driver is always culpable in an accident involving a minor, even if sober and below the speed limit, which I was.

This seems like a weird construct, particularly given that minors do such stupid things. Two of them, together, literally ran into traffic, and the default is "blame traffic"?

Blaming traffic is appropriate.

For most of history it was very normal for people to run in to the street. It was a place for horses, carts, donkeys, people, and livestock, and more than that, it was a place for socializing _and_ transport _and_ commerce.

Then, a few wealthy folks showed up in their automobiles and said "GET OUT OF MY WAY OR I WILL KILL YOU" and oddly, we sided with them.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2012/04/invention-jay... has more.

Not at all. You are creating the dangerous situation in the first place. If you weren't driving, people could run across the road without fear of getting hit by you.

A self driving car would have stopped, as it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus.

In the USA (and perhaps Canada), yes, but it's not illegal here in the UK (inferred since the British Oxford has a Cowley Road, which is a busy radial route).

The advice given to children here is "don't cross at the front of a bus, always behind it". That and "look right, left, and right again".

The bus was stopped on the other side of the road, the children disembarked, went to the back of the bus, and crossed.

My wife was involved in a similar accident except the victim was an elderly lady. My wife was driving very carefully, not speeding etc.

One of the things that I observed whilst we endured the aftermath is the lack of support for people in this situation and what a taboo there is around it. It felt as if there was no 'right' to sympathy or support due to the asymmetry of experience for those involved. It's even difficult to find the right language without it being pejorative. 'Hit and killed' implies some kind of intent or that there was some kind of choice.

This is one of the reasons I started commuting by bike. I was hit by a car as a child and I thought I'd like to reduce the chance of that happening again.

From that perspective I find it weird every time bikes come up here there's someone complaing about bikes going too fast or ignoring the rules or digging out the last time someone got killed by a bike, often a years old story. Kids getting killed by cars isn't even a news story, just a part of life.

> This is one of the reasons I started commuting by bike. I was hit by a car as a child and I thought I'd like to reduce the chance of that happening again.

I commute by bicycle in the Netherlands (good infrastructure). I've been hit (all different occasions) by two cars, one scooter, one moped as well as another bicycle. In every single case I had right of way and didn't notice the other one doing something strange and unexpected. Unexpected as in: car making a right turn while I'm going straight (=right of way) without the car using their indicators or slowing down to make the turn.

It's been quite a while since the last accident, hope it stays that way. It also sometimes happens I make a mistake without this resulting in an accident. It's good that a mistake doesn't always result in an accident.

Such a sad story.

> "The voice said in this very biblical, Old Testament, angry way"

Is this what people consider "biblical"? An angry person? I've spent years reading the Pentateuch, writings, and new testament and I don't see this voice (I assume she means "God") as angry at all.

Quite the opposite actually, as the narrative is [to the Jews] about God restoring them despite their rebellion and sin and [to the Christians] about God giving us his son despite our hatred and sin.

> "Then about 10 years ago I went to Israel on a trip. I'm Jewish and I went with my rabbi and other people from the temple that I belonged to. While I was there I took a Hebrew name, Bracha, which means blessing."

I assume this "voice" was the guilt that plagued her creeping into anything that mattered. It's sad the torment that we can inflict onto our own minds. It sounds like she was able to overcome it.

Well, half the Old Testament is one tribe murdering another, and God either doesn't care, or support one side (usually the victorious one - if it's Jews it's because they were nice, if it's not Jews it's because Jews were sinful at that particular moment :) ).

He tells Saul (if I remember correctly) to murder subjugated people, women and children included, so at that moment to any sane person God is actually acting as a force of evil, corrupting the believers, who wanted to save them (for a life of slavery most probably, but still, better than murder).

He makes a bet with the devil over Hiob's life, and kills his entire family (or allows it to be killed, same thing) just to see that Hiob's indeed faithful (which he knew beforehand because he's omniscient, but whatever).

God of Old Testament even calls itself "jealous", and tells people he "punishes sins of ancestors on X generations" (3 or 4 if I remember correctly).

Kinda angry and evil, isn't it?

> half the Old Testament is one tribe murdering another

That hasn't changed, it's only gotten worse. A huge percentage of this world kills, riots, and is violent. Is God supposed to handcuff everyone?

God's primary purpose isn't to keep everyone safe in a little sealed box where they can't hurt anything. However, one day he will put an end to to sin and evil once and for all. The reason he doesn't is that he continues to extend mercy to as many people as he knows will take it before that time comes.

(Also, tribe is the wrong word. Many of these countries/civilizations had millions of people in them with wars being fought between armies of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.)

A huge percentage? I reckon the vast majority of individual people alive today are pretty peaceful.

God's primary purpose is as a tool for the religious ruling elite to exert control over the followers. Do Man's desires align with God's will, or does God's will conveniently align with Man's desires? Seems we always have only Man's word on the matter.

It is impossible for men to have written the bible. It was written over ~1,500 years by about 40 different people across multiple empires and contents - yet it's unified in the story. It's over 20% prophecy, much of which was has already come to pass about nations or events (some of which features Israel).

There is no book that even comes close to the complexity required for the bible to have been written.

> It is impossible for men to have written the bible.

That's quite the claim, since historical evidence sure seems to show every known biblical text was scribed by human hands.

> yet it's unified in the story

That's certainly open to interpretation, to say the least. Many of the story elements and arcs can be found in cultures that pre-date Christ.

> much of which was has already come to pass about nations or events

Over thousands of years one can find examples for any broad prophecy.

Once again we're left with nothing authoritative on the matter except the word of Man, that we're apparently expected to take on faith alone.

> show every known biblical text was scribed by human hands

Yes, the bible itself claims this (2 Peter 1:21). I was referring to men coming up with the idea and colluding over a millennia.

> Many of the story elements and arcs can be found in cultures that pre-date Christ.

That is because everything in the New Testament (including Christ's life) was an extension of what had already be told for thousands of years earlier.

> Over thousands of years one can find examples for any broad prophecy.

These aren't broad prophecies. They are specific accounts of events such as the destruction method of Tarshish by a Greek commander (Alexander the great) or the name of a future Persian King who would command the rebuilding of the temple (Darius the Persian) or the return of Israel as a nation after Daniels 69 weeks had elapsed, etc...

The most extensive prophecies are focused on Jesus himself and what he would do and how he would die (Isaiah 53, etc..).

> I was referring to men coming up with the idea and colluding over a millennia.

How do you reconcile with the fact that there are hundreds of texts and stories that have selectively excluded by human hands to create what we today call the bible?

If my priest gives me a bible and tells me "This is the word of God", but admits that over the last 2000 years there have been several councils were certain texts and stories were added and removed, and that archaeologists have found previously unknown gospels not included in the bible, what am I supposed to think?

I am afraid the sheer volume of research on the topic of the canon of scripture is more than I'll ever be able to consume. There are hundreds of books and videos on the subject. If you are really curious then you should probably check them all out. icr.org, carm.org, gotquestions.org, etc...

I'll add that we have thousands of copies and fragments of the bible with nothing more than small changes in spelling. If anything was changed, we would know from the differences in the copies (unless every nation all colluded to have the same bible from day one). In fact, even the Jews would have to have been in on it even though they deny Jesus is their Messiah. (See the dead sea scrolls)

I only know of one "council" where they "decided" on what was in the bible. The Council of Nicea, where they affirmed what was already accepted as canon.

Is there any proof these prophecies were written before the events occurred? The simplest explanation is that they were written after the events then pointed to as prophecies to prove the texts are prophetic. That would align very well with what we know about the world and the deceit Man is perfectly capable of.

While many people collectively editing and revising a text over millennia is certainly impressive, there is nothing impossible about it nor is it on its own proof of anything supernatural.

That doesn't really answer anything. I'm not debating that Jesus existed. But using the Bible as evidence for the Bible doesn't hold water.

More than 99% of all people alive today never murdered anyone, nor participated in any war. Slavery is very rare. In most of the world there are at least partly objective court system, with the possibility to appeal.

In what way exactly things got worse according to you?

And the important thing about Old Testament is - it portraits wars of Jewish states/tribes as either having the support of the God (because they were doing what God said to them, so they deserve to enslave/kill the pagans and take their land), or going against the God and thus - losing (so the pagans got the support of the God in the murdering or enslaving the Jews as a punishment).

God's purpose is whatever he chooses, but if you do such things you aren't "good" and "loving". You're basically playing Starcraft with people as units. It's evil.

>> Is this what people consider "biblical"? An angry person? I've spent years reading the Pentateuch, writings, and new testament...

No, it's the old testament god. The one who punished Adam and Eve, the one who decided humanity was such a disgrace he flooded the world to purge them - that angry god.

Is God not able to try and judge people just as we do? If someone murders another, humanity has long believed it ok to imprison or execute them for their crimes. I fail to see how an all-knowing God is not qualified to make the same judgement.

> "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.. ...and the earth was filled with violence. - Genesis 6:5-11

That aside, there are more as many acts of mercy in these stories than judgement. The idea of an "Old Testament God" and "New Testament God" is rejected by all the Jews and Christians I know.

The New Testament is rejected by most Jews. Yet, even without this "merciful God" of the NT, we can see from the Old Testament writings that they regard God as one whos' "Loving kindness and mercy endures forever".

God is omnipotent, he could save these murdered by others. Instead he chose to let them be murdered and then punish these that did the murder. And then also to punish their kids and grandkids.

The funny thing is - most modern people are more ethical, than Old Testament's God.

You wouldn't kill your children if they decided to become hippies, or to burn your house. And you certainly wouldn't kill their children, etc.

And yeah, most Christians believe the God is the same. But the behaviour described in the books changed drastically.

> The idea of an "Old Testament God" and "New Testament God" is rejected by all the Jews and Christians I know.

How many Jews and Christians do you know? How many theologians do you know?

I could just as easily state that it is abundantly clear that the Old Testament and the New Testament are written by completely different people at completely different points in time.

Are you saying that all acts of cruelty by God in the OT are acts of judgement? And what kind of judgement is that? The story about Sodom and Gomorrah basically tells us that:

A) Any kind of sin can be punishable by death. B) Collective punishment is OK, including innocent men, women and children.

> Any kind of sin can be punishable by death

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 6:23

You don't see sin as a big deal, but God does.

> including innocent men, women and children

That's the problem. What innocent people? All of Sodom and Gomorrah were doing some really, really bad things like burning children alive and torturing people.

> And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. “I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD. Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.”... ...Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” - Genesis 18:20-32

> The idea of an "Old Testament God" and "New Testament God" is rejected by all the Jews and Christians I know.

Jews reject the New Testament entirely; Christians are the ones who came up with the distinction (which doesn't distinguish different actual gods but either different human understanding of God or different stages on God's relationship with humanity.)

Well, there's also (some subset of) Gnostics, who viewed them as literally different gods, and identified the OT God with the evil(-ish, at least) demiurge. But that's a whole other kettle of fish.

Or the one who destroyed Job's life to win a bet with Satan. Or cursed the people of Babel. Or summarily executed all of Sodom and Gomorrah.

To be clear, there's a lot more to God in the Old Testament than anger, even in those instances. There's grief, especially in the flood, and in the case of Adam and Eve, God provided for their nakedness with better clothes then they had made.

To say nothing of the promise and provision provided to nations throughout the Old Testament, the grace given to non-Israelites by keeping them from accidentally violating the marriages of Abram and Issac when both men lied about their wives out of fear.

Remembering only the anger of God in the Old Testament is a common, but incomplete reading. There is also grace there.

>Remembering only the anger of God in the Old Testament is a common, but incomplete reading. There is also grace there.

If someone murders another person, we don't immediately start to list out their virtues (He donated to the poor, he was a good father etc.) It is not enough for God to have done "good things", he must also have not done "bad things".

The bar for an omnipotent, all-powerful God should be higher than it is for a fallible human being, but you appear to have lowered it.

I don't believe God's anger and wrath in the Old or New testaments to have been unrighteous or wrong. There's a lot more discussion there than I have time for right now, however. Perhaps we can resume this discussion at a later date elsewhere.

> If someone murders another person, we don't immediately start to list out their virtues.

Tell that to the media.

Is this what people consider "biblical"? An angry person?

Ever heard the expression hellfire and brimstone preacher? A lot of people are exposed to the Bible in pretty negative terms.

No, it's just the subtle, typical, anti-religious bigotry.

I heard a neighbor kid get hit by a car. A bunch of us were outside playing tag, heard the tires screech and the thump. The kid was an impulsive type, and the lady who hit him was our lunch room monitor, a very very sweet and kind woman. The kid was shooting across the road to check the mailbox, even though his mother had just told him she already picked up the mail. Other than the screech and thump, the only other sound I remember was our lunch room lady wailing when the paramedics stopped trying to revive him. We were half a block away observing, but is was like she was right next to me.

The kid was a grade or two below me, so I wasn't really friends with him. 40 years after the fact, that event still sticks with me.

When I was about seven I remember a boy named Simon who I used to play with, who told me how he liked to hide in the bushes beside the road near our houses and jump out in front of cars as they approached. I was too young to comprehend how messed up he was (he was one of those 'bad' kids who kept getting in trouble in school) and I went along with him to watch. He urged me to try it first but I knew better, and hid in the bushes while he did it.

I didn't yet understand how completely insane the situation was. The first couple cars just swerved or honked and went past without stopping, but a lady driving a VW Beetle was slower to react and slammed on her brakes, skidding and swerving and barely missing him. I can remember seeing him run out in the road, facing her with his arms out and an excited look on his face.

The lady driving was completely beside herself, screaming and crying as she ran over to him, demanding to know what was going on. Simon confessed and also told her about me hiding nearby, and I remember being terrified as she grabbed his arm and ran over to me, still shouting and sobbing all at once. She was (understandably) just completely out of control and she marched us up the road to our houses to tell our parents.

I wasn't allowed to play with Simon again and I think that was the day I realized that cars and driving were deadly serious, and nothing to joke around with. For me it was mostly seeing the reaction of the lady driver and trying to comprehend why she was so upset. Looking back on it, I feel sorry for her and for Simon's parents, because they must have had a hell of a time raising him. Strange the things you remember from childhood, but fortunately most people turn out OK.

Cars are the 2nd greatest engineering blunder only second to nuclear weapons. Cars are inherently dangerous. Every time you drive you risk killing someone or yourself. We must work to eliminate cars from the world, at the very least cars driven by humans. I am completely serious. There are the pollution issues too.

You don't think the benefits that automobiles brought to the world are worth more than "2nd greatest engineering blunder"?

I imagine ambulances save more lives than automobiles take.

Seems pretty easy to quantify - it looks like there are ~37K motor vehicle deaths in a given year [0] and "Approximately 6.2 million patient transport ambulance trips occur annually." [1]

Ambulances would need to save their passengers' lives <1% of the time for them to "break even" so to speak.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_i...

[1] https://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/811677.pdf

Many many ambulance trips are non-emergency.

Even the emergency trips, it's difficult to say whether the person would have died if they didn't have an ambulance.

Overall this would be pretty hard to quantify.

I was hit by a car when I was 7 years old. It was a hit and run. I was thrown into the air. Luckily, I only bruised my shoulder blade.

It was certainly my fault I was in the road, chasing a frisbee.

I can understand why the person would have run away from the scene.

I wish there was more forgiveness in society.

That's an awesome attitude for someone who had the driver flee the scene.

"Chasing a frisbee" should never put one at risk of death. The fault isn't with you; it's with the driver (going too fast to stop for a running child) and the traffic engineer (built an unsafe street next to housing / parks / etc.).

I respectfully disagree. There is a reasonable requirement that as you're passing someone on the street if they aren't in front of you it's not your fault. You as a human have a blind spot at which point you can't be reasonable expected to stop.

They should have definitely stopped after hitting someone.

Fault could be the drivers if they were speeding, the person was standing in the road (not entering at a perpendicular), drinking, etc.

This is why you should have a dashcam for your vehicle. I always ALWAYS watch side yards and such for children (my mom called them snipers). I drive down the middle of the road when people aren't around (more distance between parked cars and my bumper) but no one is perfect and the Fault isn't always the drivers.

The driver is always the one operating the heavy, dangerous vehicle around vulnerable people. That puts the standard of care directly on the driver, as the one choosing to put everyone around them in danger for their convenience.

This was at a busy intersection in the middle of Boston. For those who know the area: Beacon St. And Mass. Ave. across the bridge from MIT.

>"In 2003 there was an accident at Santa Monica Farmers Market. An elderly man had ploughed into a group of people with his car and lots of people had been killed and injured. It was just carnage, it was a terrible scene. People were on the TV screaming that this 86-year-old man was a murderer"

86-year-old driver crashing into people IS murder, and not an accident. Lack of vision, pretty much no reflexes, cramps, aching limbs/joints, sclerosis. We (my family) took my great-uncles car keys away before he turned 80 because it was becoming apparent he has trouble with basic tasks, like backing up/parking/or even remembering to signal. Letting person this old drive is a gross negligence.

manslaughter ≠ murder

That article is actually the transcript of a BBC World Service Podcast. If you want to, you can listen to the lady tell her story in her own words [1]. Just a terribly sad story for all involved.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05t5z1b

Well written - it shares a glimpse of the grief of an accidental death and the impact on two families.

This is but a small glimpse of what many soldiers suffer ('shellshock') after being required to deliberately kill.

A good reminder to have compassion for those around us. Everyone carries burdens. Some much greater than ours.

'shell-shock' is literally the aftereffects of a concussive blast rattling your brain around in your skull; itself is usually diagnosed under the broader umbrella of PTSD, which one might also end up with after having to kill another person.

Think you'd struggle to find many people who've suffered a concussion from an accident then going on to develop PTSD.

This seems to only be relevant to people already at risk of PSTD (troops). I think it says, having a concussion makes these troops more likely to develop PTSD. But troops are already likely to develop PTSD! This biases the control group.

You're confusing 'increases the likelihood of' with 'causes'. If you could demonstrate that peple who suffer a concussion then develop PTSD when non-concussed members of their group do not develop PTSD, then I'd accept the claim that concussion causes PTSD.

Does it seem unlikely to you that a concussive brain injury would cause lasting effects on a persons well being?

This story reminded me of how this morning, while commuting via bike to work in the rain, I was tailgated by an SUV. If I had slipped and crashed on some wet leaves, I probably would have been crushed to death, and (in a just world) the driver would be guilty of 4th degree murder. Yet we both carried on with our day as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. This is insanity. Why does US society tolerate such casually reckless behavior on the roads?

Wow that was a strong read. Granted that they are quite at the opposite ends of 'accidental kill' spectrum, it immediately reminded me one of my favorite movies, In Bruges {SPOILER AHEAD!} where we see a hitman who accidentally kills a little boy struggling with his life to overcome his "mistake". I get teary eyed every time I watch it..

Such a great movie. You might want to put a spoiler warning on that though.

There is a truly sickening amount of victim blaming going on in this thread. People need to take a step back from your selfish perspectives and realize that there are real consequences when we try to make ourselves feel better by saying "it can't be helped" or "there's nothing you could have done". It's not the little boy's fault that he got hit, nor is it nobody's fault. The fault belongs with the driver who hit him, with the road engineer whose design encourages negligent driving, and the society that prioritizes convince for motorists over basic safety.

There is not such thing as an accident.

This discussion boils down to should the kid(or all kids) have been monitored a bit more? If so would it have affected him negatively in his later years? Blame game or not this discussion has a lot of merit.

"People thought they knew me but I didn't talk about probably the most significant event in my life." really speaks to me and my experience and isolation as a combat vet. I highly suggest two things for others with ptsd, which is what is most likely; cannabis as medicine, (self)cognitive behavorhal therapy exercises. For those who aren't away, advances in immersion c(e)bt with VR have been showing major promise for the desensitation and coping process, and is one of the reasons why I'm ready for VR to advance a generation or two.

"The way of the warrior is the resolute acceptance of death" ~ Miyamoto Musashi

I have 4 boys under the age of 12. I would say I think about one of them dying (accident, sickness, murder...so many ways it can happen...) multiple times a day. I know that sounds morbid, and it probably is, but my brain does it on its own...not a lot of control over it.

Nothing on earth scares me more than the idea of having to go on living without one of them. Having 4 increases my odds that I might have to. It terrifies me on a daily basis! Yay, Parenthood!

I can’t watch movies that involve kids being sick, hurt, etc. which is fine,,,,not the reason I watch movies, but I literally cannot. I will turn off the tv or leave the room. I’m a giant baby, basically!

On the other hand, having more of them decreases your odds that you will face losing all of them. Imagine how parents live who had just one child, who died.

There have been studies on this. Your life (well, chance at ever being happy again) is effectively ruined by the death of one child, regardless of how many you have.

You never stop loving or missing the one that died.

> Your life (well, chance at ever being happy again) is effectively ruined by the death of one child

I think the sentiment here has a lot of truth, but it's just a bit too strong.

My parents lost my sister when she and I were young. It was terribly painful for them. It still tears me up to think about it. I think I've only ever asked about it once or twice in 40 years, and especially never dared to do so with my dad. But they seem to have found ways to be at peace about it. They are happy in their own lives and happy about me. Time and love and wisdom can eventually make it OK.

It’s terrifying. The other day my youngest started crying and screaming cuz his stomach hurt (ended up being gas or upset stomach that lasted for 4-5 hours). My brain instantly went to “well that’s it...”...it almost always goes through worst case first.

I literally can’t imagine how hard it is on parent’s whose kids are actually sick, suffering so badly, and then may end up dying. I don’t know...I’m not sure I’m made of stuff strong enough to deal with that.

You take it one day at a time and try not to overthink it. You are also a lot stronger than you think you are.

Dude...not how it works. Read the story. They had two...totally ruined their lives. You can argue they didn’t “handle it well” (blaming her when it was an obvious accident, not moving on together, leaving the room, etc), but the point is every child you have feels like your only child in many ways.

I’m going to have to disagree with you here.

I have two children and you're right but what he may be saying is that at least you have some comfort in your remaining child/children.

I understand what they mean. I just disagree. I think studies on it agree with me too, but I’d rather not read about it. They and I will just have to agree to disagree.

On one hand having another child or more children could be comforting, but I think you are more likely to make that child’s life much harder and sadder, which would add more guilt. It’s all around *ucking awful and terrifying.

Having to deal with the siblings' loss and the repercussions on their own mental health on top of your own loss could potentially be FAR worse.

Gave you an upvote because I don't think you deserved a negative score for a common misconception. I've known people permanently changed in all sorts of ways by various things. You or I can not completely understand the reality of it. I am generally moved by them and feel honored when anyone shares their story with me.

It does not work in mathematical way. You lose one and your life is broken forever.

My parental nightmare story - Many years ago when my youngest son was about 2 (he is 14 now), we were on family holiday and had just checked in to our hotel room which was on the 6th floor of the complex.

Exhausted from the travelling, we all decided to take a nap on the huge king sized bed. To this day I don't know what it is, but something snapped me awake mid-nap, and I looked across to see that my younger son had woken up, got out of bed, ambled across to the window, climbed on the ledge, and had cranked the lever, and was pushing the window open.

I leapt out of bed, and crossed the distance to the window faster than Usain Bolt, and grabbed him a split second before he plummeted out. I discovered that the window was (a) unlocked, contrary to hotel policy, and (b) the little safety bracket that would have prevented the window opening more than about 6 inches, was missing.

I reported to the manager, and the moved us to another room immediately, with better window security & safety.

To this day, I sometimes snap awake in my sleep with my brain screaming "OMG - I have to get [younger son's name] away from the window". In a kind of reverse blame, I keep thinking what if I had just slept through?

On another anecdote, similar to the OP story here - A good fried whom I used to play cricket with, had a sister, whose boyfriend was driving home one afternoon when a 3 year old boy chased a ball onto the road in front of his car, and was killed by the impact. He wasn't speeding or doing anything wrong. It was a pure accident. He was distraught about it and I believe, like the lady in the story, stopped driving for many years. I look back on the episode now and realise that I had no social cues as to how to approach him about it or offer him comfort in any way. I wonder how he is doing now - we lost touch and I have no idea where he is these days.

When we say things like "I wish people read more widely" this is the kind of thing I imagine people should be reading.

Hopefully I'll never accidentally kill someone, but I like to think that a lifetime of reading about other people's experiences good and bad has made me less quick to judge someone as a 'bad person' and take a charitable view to trying to understand why people do things.

I was dating this girl with a very young daughter. We were gonna go out on a date, so the daughter went with my ex's brother and sister. The sister knew how to drive, the brother was 16 years old and didn't know how to drive. So he ended up driving somehow, hoping to get some practice. He lost control driving on a straight highway with no traffic in either direction, hit a light pole, and the daughter (not wearing a seatbelt) went head-first into the back of the seat. Traumatic brain injury+coma, eventually she was let go off of life support and passed away.

I've always felt that, if I were capable of really hurting someone, it would be that brother. I still feel really angry about it, x years later.

Anyway, I can't imagine what that brother and sister are feeling about all this, even x years later. I don't understand why it would make me happier if I knew they were suffering from it. But at least this story helps me feel guilty about feeling that way.

I spent about 10 days in the hospital when I was in 1st grade. A couple of other kids about my age shared the room for some part of that time. Both had been hit by cars when darting out into the street, one I think on a sled. Each, I think, escaped with a broken limb.

Shortly before we moved to the street where we now live, a kid rode his bike down a driveway and out into the street. The car that struck him was unlikely to have been going more than 30 mph, but the kid was in a coma for a week or two. A little later, a girl came down her driveway on a skateboard, and bounced off the side of a passing sports ute. I don't drive much these days, but I've had a sense of these neighborhood streets as dangerous places.

Having been living in LA for the last few years, and as such becoming much more car dependent, stories like these make me dearly miss the days of having reliable trains and buses available at all hours to take me everywhere I needed to go.

As someone who is not a parent, and reading these comments from fathers on how unbearable must be to lose a child (even the thought of it), brought me back to a story which taught me to feel, years ago, to try understand what losing a child does to a person. It was the game Heavy Rain. It is a big part of the narrative to put you on the father's shoes, to lose a child and dive down to a limbo, how your life basically just ends, emotionally. Of course, just a videogame, but that's what good fiction does, it puts you at a characther's shoes and makes you feel and think really hard about a situation unfamiliar to you.

As a gamer who became a father. I played this game and felt pain, but on the flip side I couldn't even play this game now. All I'd do is picture loosing my son. I could see a lot of the repercussions playing out in my house though, aka relationship with my other son, wife, etc.

This reminds me so much of Genesis' "Dreaming While You Sleep."

  All my life, you lie silently there
  All my life in a world so unfair
  All my life and only I'll know why
  And it will live inside of me
  I will never be free all my life
  Trapped in her memory all my life
  Till the day that you open your eyes
  Please open your eyes

Damn...reading this was difficult. Her shame - rather than her guilt, which was absolved the minute she confessed to her being a cause for the boy's death - went on for too long. Glad she didn't take her own life. Heaven's forbid, if this ever happened to me, I'm not sure I could live with myself. It is such a punishing, harrowing ordeal for anyone to go through.... whew.

This woman's story, and a number like it, was featured in the New Yorker recently https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-sorrow-and...

I feel like reading articles like this makes me a more careful driver for a few days or weeks.

I expected some metaphor about becoming an adult. Turned out I was wrong, it is exactly as the title says, no second meaning.

Maybe I see so many "interesting" titles that I tend to forget that sometimes, they really mean what they are saying.

That was a tough, but totally worthwhile read... deeo breaths, puts the phone down

I'm a mother with a young child. I don't think the childless and males can ever really understand the process of being pregnant for 9 months and then giving birth.

I empathize with her, but if she killed my child. I could never forgive her.

It's true, I really can't understand that. If the person wasn't at fault, if they were just in the wrong place at the exact wrong time, you'd just hate them forever?

I don't think the childless females can ever really understand the process either...

I am a dad, and I saw a change in my wife the DAY my first son was born. It's easy to forget but we were all on the other side of having children at some point (regardless of gender). It's something that changes you, your relationships, your priorities.

If someone accidentally killed my child I don't know that I'd forgive them either. I know that it would tear my family apart and would ruin the rest of my life. I hope it doesn't happen to anyone.

Sure people who aren't pregnant can never understand what it's like to carry their child inside them for 9 months.

You feel their movements inside you. You just know when they aren't feeling well.They respond differently when you eat certain foods. It's an almost spiritual connection.

Then to finally meet them after 9 months, I just can't describe it.

It's interesting seeing the affect that feeding my kids had on my wife and their relationship. I was kind of jealous for a while. I didn't get to have that.

Don't get me wrong I still remember the first time I held them both, but I had to grow to know them from that day forward.

In this case it sounds like it was the child's fault though? Reading the article I can't quite agree with the notion of "she killed the child". Rather, the child killed himself. He suddenly darted out into the street in front of a moving vehicle. So to me the accident sounds like the child's fault rather than the driver's.

At this age its ultimately parents fault.

Mailboxes on the opposite side of a street with a 45-50mph speed limit? STUPID. I feel terrible for both the victim and the author, in part because tragedies like this are avoidable. This particular scenario seems pretty egregious, but even the typical line of cars parked along the side of the road - obscuring view of the sidewalk and giving pedestrians a false sense of security - is provably bad for safety. If you want safety you need to maximize all-direction visibility. You can also add traffic-calming elements like bumps or chokepoints, but those are strictly secondary.

FWIW, I live on a pretty busy street - feeder for the neighborhood, popular short cut between two state roads, 35mph speed limit. Technically parking is allowed, but nobody does so visibility is pretty good. In nearly 20 years living here, I've only seen or heard of one accident, and it was a neighbor's dog (who came out of it fine). On runs I've seen evidence of maybe two or three other collisions. We're lucky. I can't imagine the carnage if we did something as stupid as putting mailboxes on only one side of the street.

> even the typical line of cars parked along the side of the road - obscuring view of the sidewalk and giving pedestrians a false sense of security

There are so many intersections in San Francisco where cars are allowed to park right on the corner, completely obscuring your vision as you go to make a turn, and making it a leap of faith whether or not you'll get hit. The best you can do is slowly edge out and hope that other cars see you.

Poorly designed systems like this infuriate me almost as much as people who will happily give the system a pass and then demonize individuals who mess up because of it.

Indeed the civil engineer who allowed such an egregious speed limit is at fault here.

Speed limits are not speed targets.

In the UK most b-roads are 'national' speed limit (i.e. 60mph or 70mph). It is expected that the driver selects the appropriate speed for the conditions, visibility, road etc etc.

Of course, we're humans, which means errors are made, people are impatient, we don't balance risk very well etc etc.

They tend to be speed targets in many places, because if you drive under (or at) the speed limit in many places, you'll get hassled by aggressive drivers behind you, creating a more dangerous situation than if you sped up instead.

(Based on my experience driving in the US, at least.)

In the US they're more often treated like minimums

Speed limits are a function of road conditions, both static (e.g design) and dynamic (e.g. weather).

Posted speed limits are a function of the 90th percentile speed (usually based on typical conditions).

If you set low speed limits because "think of the children" you get other (safety) problems.

Just add speed cameras and eventually people will stop speeding.

They'll also spend more time looking at their speedometer and less time actually paying attention to the driving conditions.

[uncited opinion]

When you get into rural areas, you often times see houses that are built on roads that are 45-55 mph speed limits. They're main through ways but people build on them, often times either farms or former farms that were lotted off.

I have driven through such areas (mostly in Texas) and I found it very unsettling that the speed limit was so high. In other areas, it's not uncommon for the speed limit to be reduced to 25 (or maybe 35) in a residential area.

Here's a good article on the subject of negligence in the design of public ways: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/11/1/gross-negligen...

There are lots of places where I live that are like this. It's fairly common in rural areas. I'm assuming it's designed to make mail delivery easier on the drivers.

The article reads like a case study on OCD from Brain Lock.


Please don't start flamewars on Hacker News. Not cool.

>If someone fires a gun randomly down the street, not aiming at anyone, but happens to hit someone, they'd certainly be arrested. Drive a multi-thousand-pound projectile down the street, kill someone, and it's just an "accident".

That is not the correct analogy for this accident. The correct analogy is "Someone runs across a live firing range." The shooters would not be charged.

If this analogy is accurate, isn't it absurd that many/most of us live right next to a "live firing range" with no safety barriers?

We know that kids are unpredictable, adults get distracted, and reducing vehicle speed reduces the chance of a collision being fatal: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/r...

We don't need to accept that roads are deadly places for non-drivers. We should strive to make our environment more liveable - by changing road design, vehicle safety features and driver attitudes - and this includes enforcement.

> If this analogy is accurate, isn't it absurd that many/most of us live right next to a "live firing range" with no safety barriers?

It's accurate from a safety perspective, but otherwise a roadway is not like a firing range.

… which probably should be further modified to "Someone runs across a live firing range in front of a row of houses where kids live".

Why should the street be a live firing range in the first place?.

The streets are paid for by every citizen, yet pedestrians have to adapt to car traffic, even though they are not the ones carrying a weapon.

Sorry, but that's very a silly thing to say. While driving a car serves a purpose for what purpose is anyone going to fire bullets randomly for?

They're hardly the same. A vehicle moving on a road is using that space exactly for its intended, accepted, and lawful purpose. A bullet moving through the air in a populated area is not.

Accidents do happen; you can't make the world perfect because it is full of imperfect and sometimes irrational (like a 4 year old) people. Personally, I drive extra slow in residential areas just so I can hopefully prevent something like this from happening to someone's child.

> The default needs to move to charging every driver involved in a fatal crash with manslaughter.

In civilized society, there is some evidentiary threshold for arrest and initiating charges. Manslaughter is a crime with specific elements; the absence of sufficient evidence of those elements makes it inappropriate ton arrest or charge.

The absence, as the police expressly found upon initial investigation, of evidence of even negligence in the operation of the vehicle rightly would foreclose such arrest. (And presumably the only reason the police stated that it because it was a threshold issue that, had it gone otherwise, there would have been an arrest.)

>The default needs to move to charging every driver involved in a fatal crash with manslaughter. Currently the police won't even perform basic investigative work that would make any charge possible.

On top of the other points people have made about why this is a bad idea, it would also probably make people somewhat more likely to avoid reporting the crime all together in situations with no witnesses.

I have to agree with maxhallinan. These aren't analogous at all.

One time I was riding my bike when nearly the exact same thing happened to me as this woman, only instead of a small child the person was an older man. He, looking for traffic the wrong way on a one-way street, mistakenly thought it was safe to run across the road. I was doing the speed limit (60kph) when I hit him, full force, and sent him tumbling down the hill about 15 feet.

It wasn't my fault at all, but that guy was totally wrecked. I was a bit sore, but overall I was fine. Him on the other hand - his body helped break my bike frame (bent one tube, snapped another right from its welds, broke my wheel, ripped cables free), he had nothing to protect his head, and he looked frail to begin with. It was bad.

Should I have been charged for that? I don't think so. He did it far too suddenly for me to do much more than hit my brakes. I felt awful about it, but I definitely don't feel responsible for it.

If I'd been going the wrong way, he was at a cross walk, or something - something where I should have been more prepared to stop or avoid him - then absolutely. But sometimes pedestrians make really bad calls and road users just aren't at fault.

Injuring someone that badly for a "bad call" means you were going too fast around pedestrians. There doesn't have to be a mitigating factor for you to be in the wrong, even if the pedestrian made a mistake.

We should all be safe to make mistakes trying to walk somewhere without risk of serious injury or death from our fellow road users.

> I was doing the speed limit (60kph)

That's recklessly fast for a vehicle people are far less likely to hear, see, or be familiar with judging the speed of. Could he had seen you, and figured you were compent enough to slow down & avoid slamming into him?

As a cyclist I am always aware that pedestrians might step out into the road. I expect pedestrians to do stupid things, so I don't travel at 60 kph. In town I'd never travel more than 20.

That doesn't make sense. She was within the speed limit and if you go too far below it then you can be ticketed. Arguably, your proposal would also encourage more hit-and-runs as well.

This young woman wasn’t speeding. Throwing her in jail would have done nothing but increase the amount of suffering in this world. She is being punished every day of her life as it is.

In Italy they have introduced the crime of “automobilistic manslaughter”. It made no difference whatsoever. Nobody wakes up thinking “Today I’ll drive fast and maybe kill someone”, and nobody drives thinking “oh I must be careful or I’ll murder someone”. People just go from A to B as fast as possible. There is only so much fear of the Law you can put into them, and it doesn’t work at all when the triggering event (death) is so huge that most brains simply cannot process it or imagine it.

What really makes a difference is trying to build an environment where people don’t drive at all, or they do in segregated roads away from pedestrian traffic, as well has having speed bumps and so on.

The post you are responding do does not say anything about throwing anyone in jail, just that there should be an automatic charge of manslaughter. Then the courts would decide...

When people say they want new crimes on the books, they do it because they want someone convicted - otherwise there would be no point. It's pretty clear that this girl would not have been convicted, so what would the point have been? To show her the horror of the justice system, "so she will think twice next time"? She's already doing that herself, every day, simply because she doesn't want to kill anyone else.

What we need is better prevention and less cars.

Jesus, did accidents just disappear once the car was invented?

I take your stance is the same for train drivers, too?

What an utterly silly opinion, anyway.

kevindqc 12 days ago [flagged]

What a stupid comment - I hope you're just a troll.

Please don't break the site rules like this, regardless of how bad a comment is. If you'll read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html you'll see what you ought to do instead: flag it. Or email hn@ycombinator.com in egregious cases. Degrading the site further by feeding trolls is definitely "what we not do", to quote my son when he was 3.


It's sad that people can be so stupid in India, they often end up killing the wrong person or don't know the full facts of what happened.

This happens everywhere, not just India. This happens in the United States in the prison system, for example.

You’re right of course, I just mentioned India because the parent poster was asking about the instant mob justice approach that sometimes occurs there in serious traffic collisions.

> How do you guys feel about the sort of mob justice that happens in such cases in India?

It's dumb. The whole point of the criminal justice/judicial/investigative systems is to prevent mob rule, which makes no attempt to reach truth, just get revenge.

It would depend on any reasons for that mob justice. If the authorities (the courts?) could be expected to take no action in any case or in a corrupt way then street justice might be the only justice available.

I doubt a mob made of the entire earth could assuage a good person's guilt for having - albeit inadvertently - killed an innocent child.

Tragic. But how is this hacker news?

"Please don't complain that a submission is inappropriate. If a story is spam or off-topic, flag it. Don't feed egregious comments by replying; flag them instead. If you flag something, please don't also comment that you did."

I'm not trying to be snarky, but I still don't see it.

It is, because enough people upvoted it. If you don't agree, flag it. If enough people do that, it will be removed, if not, it means it belongs here.

"The lead officer came and told me that they were not arresting me - there was no indication that I was negligent or distracted or impaired in any way - but he gave me a little lecture saying, "This child died, that's a terrible thing, you need to make sure that you never do this again.""

Was I the only one shocked by this? I mean, a little kid died and she's not arrested at least to conduct an investigation? How did they know she wasn't going to fast?

"never do this again"? What kind of BS closure is that?

I'm not saying she deserved to be convicted or something based on her side of the story, but taking the time for a basic investigation would have been nice.

> Was I the only one shocked by this?

I think anyone who was actually alive in a time when it was possible for an accident to occur and people didn't automatically look for someone to blame aren't shocked. I'm a lot more shocked by what happens today.

You know, back when the police's job was to 'protect and serve'.

I think half the stuff my parents did to us kids in the '70s would lead to them being arrested today...

Not sure why this is being downvoted. Whether you agree with the values expressed or not, it is a fact that people who kill people with their car rarely face any sort of legal repercussion.

And yeah, I don’t think the fragility of the agent of death is a reason not to conduct even a cursory investigation into whether there might have been factors related to the crash.

Was there anything in the car that might indictate impairment or distraction? Was there something about the place in the roadway that limited visibility? Might she have been speeding, and might speeding have been a factor?

I mean, yes, some crashes are truly accidental, but some (especially nowadays with digital distractions) aren’t exactly without culpability on the part of the driver.

When I was in college a beloved professor of mine was struck by a man who got out of his pickup truck, looked around, and got back in his truck and drove off. My professor was left injured in the middle of the road only to be struck and killed by a second car. The first driver’s defense? The one that absolved him of all criminal and civil liability to my professor’s surviving child? He didn’t see her.

In this country we are pretty quick to assume innocence on the part of the driver. It’s been said that, if you want to kill someone and get away with it, do it with your car.

So, yeah, this woman probably wouldn’t have been convicted by a jury of her peers. But it’s pretty cavalier to suggest that we—out of deference to the operator of a deadly machine—that we shouldn’t even ask some questions.

What happened to all parties is horrible.

With that being said, I'm inclined not to believe people when they say they're following the speed limit without prior information about the driver. Speeding has become endemic to much of the western world. The driver in the BBC article claims to be following the speed limit, but can't remember it precisely ("45 or 50mph"). That's certainly not a point in her favor. And the various stats I've seen and also my real world experience suggest that relatively few people actually do follow the limit. I'm a cyclist who intentionally rides on roads with low speed limits. I can recall multiple instances where drivers decided to make dangerous "punishment passes" by me for apparently going too slow, despite the fact that I was actually going slightly faster than the speed limit (typically around 17 in a 15 mph zone). I can recall one particular instance where I spoke with a driver at the next light and they seemed incredulous that I was actually meeting the speed limit. I told another driver who almost ran me over that the limit was 25 mph and I was going around 28 downhill, so they can't claim I was going too slow. Their response was that I should be arrested, though they must have been going at least 40! That's entitlement. Too many drivers seem to have the attitude that someone deserves extra risk for inconveniencing others on the road. (The only reason I go a bit over the limit sometimes is because drivers tend to get angry if I don't, though I'm starting to question the utility of this. I go slower if there is no one else on the road.)

I often say that people are different when they're behind the wheel. They're less patient, and outright irrational. Speeding really does not save much time at all outside of perhaps empty highways. I see it all the time because my top speed is less than half of most drivers', yet I regularly catch up with them at stop signs and lights. Speeding is mostly extra risk for little gain.

People often don't think that 5 mph is significant, but it absolutely is.


Table 2 in that link shows fatalities approximately doubling for each 5 mph increment of speed added.

That doesn't even take into account the increased likelihood of hitting someone (increased speed means decreased ability to react and stop).

And yes, most (U.S.) roads are designed in such a way that practically begs motorists to speed. And thus speeding is the norm. Man if I had a dollar for every HN thread where someone bragged about getting out of a speeding ticket...

Most drivers do not appreciate how dangerous speeding is, definitely. As a libertarian friend of mine will say, "people automatically drive at safe speeds". (He has a very libertarian thinking style.) This view seems to be believed by the public at large if not stated explicitly, though it is false.

To be fair, one needs to consider both absolute and relative speeds. Risk increases monotonically with absolute speed, but if you are going around the average speed of other vehicles on the road, that is safer than going slower. Many drivers I've spoken with will point that out as if it says speeding is safer. But the reality is that slower speeds for everyone and relatively little spread are what's actually safer.

Learning patience and driving slower is a more productive use of one's time than fighting a speeding ticket. I am confident there's something about cars that actively erodes away patience in a way you don't see in bikes for example.

> Risk increases monotonically with absolute speed, but if you are going around the average speed of other vehicles on the road, that is safer than going slower.

This advice is good on highways to avoid colliding with other vehicles at high speeds. On local streets, it's better to be the neighborhood pace car and slow down :-)

Excellent point. I'll keep the phrase "neighborhood pace car" in mind for the future.

Also keeping distance from the car in front is very important.

It's being downvoted because there is no reason to arrest the person. "They looked for skid marks on the road and took some measurements", and presumably they concluded there was no foul play.

Yeah, still not getting it. Wouldn’t normally a person be detained for questioning if they had just killed a person in some other context?

Maybe arrest isn’t warranted—maybe a, “hey you look pretty shook up, would you mind coming down to the station with me to answer a few questions? Cool, I have to let you know before I get started that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

But I also don’t think “nah, I’m good and don’t intend to come with you to answer your questions.” Is an acceptable answer either. So, if someone were NOT cooperating with the police in a fatal crash situation, I don’t think arrest is unreasonable in the least.

I'm not sure what you want to happen here. An arrest is a (temporary) suspension of a person's civil liberties. There has to be a legitimate reason under the laws of the jurisdiction to do it. I don't know the law in England, but in the USA, if the investigating officer does not have evidence for a crime (the act, and "mens rea") or you aren't deemed a potential flight risk because you have some relation as a person of interest to someone who does in an ongoing investigation, you aren't arrested. You can be detained (which is technically what happened here - she was not free to run away from the officer while being asked the questions). She cooperated, and the questions were answered to the officer's satisfaction. Once his superiors read the report, if they find his work on scene to have been sloppy and her actions or answers suspect, they can go back and arrest her if there's cause.

I used the term detained intentionally, and then specified that arrest wouldn’t be unreasonable if required by circumstances of the investigation.

Cars are sacred in the United States. Even if you're drunk you might only get 10 days in jail: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170126/old-town/ryne-san-h...

The police are not supposed to be able to arrest a person they don't think are guilty. The police could probably lie about it and fake probable cause, but they aren't supposed to.

That's exactly what I meant. maybe I'm not familiar enough with what "arrest" entails, but at least keeping them at the station to make sure she's ok or something.

To clarify my comment, I wasn't talking about finding a way to point fingers at her or something. but really, just sending her on her way, driving the car she just used to kill a child with, is irresponsible.

This is what I took your comment to mean as well. To me, watching the responses to your comment illustrate why it is that it’s so hard for anything to change with respect to traffic safety.

I mean, we have here a story with a dead child and story of a woman who caused the death. On the strength of the emotional narrative presented in this story, people here have largely decided that it’s not even worth asking questions, maybe dotting an i or crossing a t or two.

I wouldn’t expect the officer to knock her head shoving her into the back of a squad car, or to keep her waiting in an interview room until she’s good and ready to crack. But then again, I generally expect humane, dignified treatment of people that police interact with.

Consider that she was detained for a little bit by the rookie police officer while they concluded their investigation. That seems all that was necessary since this was an accident. Believe it or not, it's not actually necessary to arrest and jail someone every time there is an accident like this.

Clearly who was mainly worried about her mental health knowing how hard it can be.

> you need to make sure that you never do this again

Just a stupid sentence that came out not knowing what to say.

It’s not stupid it’s a morally wrong thing to say and very mean. She was what, 19? He obviously knew it was an accident (why did he let her go? He obviously thought it was an accident, probably unavoidable), more the little boys fault (if you have to blame someone) than her’s..what a jerk-off.

How is it morally wrong?

The cop said it wasn't her fault, she didn't do anything wrong, but ALSO that "you need to make sure that you never do this again." How is she supposed to do that? The cop is pretending to absolve her of guilt while explicitly saying she is somehow in control of an uncontrollable situation.

What investigation? They measured the tire tracks. Unless there was an eyewitness, there is nothing else to do.

Right, this is sadly the unfortunate answer in many cases and the raw reality of our world. Too many people have been watching CSI and think the police could just go back and start 'zooming in' to see what happened.

Yeah this happened to me, my house got shot up and a bullet whizzed over my desk (where I would have been if I was at my computer) and into the wall over my sleeping head.

The police response was basically "well, sometimes people do this, but they usually don't hit anybody LOL". I didn't expect a full-on CSI investigation but really, my girlfriend or I could have died, I wanted something. There were never any charges, and I'm pretty sure there was no investigation beyond writing the report. It was really disappointing and disillusioning.

Agreed. Even murder clearance rates are as bad as 60% in some areas of the US. If you're not a complete idiot, you can get away with most crimes.

I guess. I'm just baffled picturing the scene. This young woman just killed a little boy and the cop is basically saying "ok, well, he's dead, just be careful next time. Ok, have a safe trip home, bye".

You're right, without witnesses what can you do? But I would imagine a procedure a little more involved when somebody kills a child.

The procedure later, away from the accident scene, probably was more involved, but at the scene, unless there was evidence of negligence or bed intent I wouldn't expect an arrest. She didn't flee. Apparently didn't appear impaired. What would they possibly arrest her for?

If you're driving fast enough on a local street that you can hit and kill someone, you're incredibly negligent (see: all NYC taxi drivers).

I live out this way. These aren't local streets like in a city or suburb. It's very rural with houses spaced far apart. Speed limits are 45-55 MPH (70-90 KPH) depending on the road. See for yourself on Street View:


Did you read the article? It was a rural road with a high speed limit.. very common in many parts of the world.

Engineers assumed people wouldn't run into the middle of the street without looking.

So 90% of drivers are incredibly negligent now.

If you slow down to non-lethal speeds for every parallel parked vehicle or obstacle in anticipation of some kid sprinting out from behind it, you might as well walk (not ride a bike, because that problem still exists).

Whilst you're correct that the higher the speed the more likely a fatality, it's also possible to cause death at very low speeds.

Cops are predominantly drivers and don't want to enforce anything against other drivers, because "it could be them".

Too true: my uncle's stepson was killed by a police car that T-boned his car as it (the cop car) jumped a red light in response to an emergency call (that later turned out to be bogus, as if the story wasn't grim enough). I imagine that the possibility of this happening to them preys very heavily on the minds of police drivers everywhere.

But what procedure are you imagining, exactly? Grilling her until she confesses to something? There was no indication of any crime, just a tragic accident.

But unless she intentionally hit the child it was an accident on her part. I'm referring to a specific incident, not crashes in general. I thought that would be abundantly clear from the context. I certainly doubt she foresaw or planned on hitting a child.


> 1 a : an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance

A crash isn't intentional either. Meriam Webster has the following definition for crash:

"to fall, land, or hit with destructive force"

To me that is more accurate.

Accident doesn't imply it wasn't avoidable.

IMO, the only person to blame in this incident is the person that thought a 50mph speed limit was appropriate for a road that kids live on.

Perhaps you've never been on rural roads that also have houses? There are many places where a 50+ mph speed limit is appropriate even though there are little clusters of houses dotted along the route. It's not practical to lower the speed limit for every house that has children.

> It's not practical to lower the speed limit for every house that has children.

Yes it is. Do you mean, it would make driving more inconvenient, since drivers would have to slow down when they passed?

It's not just inconvenience, although that is part of it. The transportation department would have a huge added burden by needing a way to determine which houses have children, a lot more signage to mark the designated slowdown areas, extra workers to make the adjustments as families move around, a way to update various mapping/GPS systems, etc. The number of passing zones would be drastically reduced. Jake braking would be a nuisance for those houses with children. And there are probably more side effects that I can't think of immediately.

I don't disagree with any intention of improving safety, but there are pragmatic reasons we shouldn't unconditionally implement reduced speed limits around children.

I think you're overcomplicating your proposed solution; if it's a hassle to track each family's residence, assume all residences may have families present. Compression braking is a nuisance, so post speed limit & compression breaking restriction signs well in advance of the houses so normal braking can be used.

In the UK, all this is done by putting up street lights. The Highway Code then dictates that the road has a speed limit of 30mph and is residential (no compression braking).

I don't understand your comment about overtaking. Are you thinking of long, straight roads with mostly-evenly distributed houses over a large distance?

I don't think we're talking about the same kinds of roads.

In an area zoned for residential, e.g. a small town or village, the speed limit will drop and there are noise restrictions. That's quite common, although also quite sparse within the land area.

I've been speaking to unincorporated areas that have no zoning. Many of them are as you described: long, straight roads with mostly-evenly distributed houses over a large distance. These are the types of rural roads that make up the vast majority of land area in the midwest area of the US.

Those houses are generally located far away from the road (farm houses) or are in some other way separated from the road way. If it’s a rural highway and houses are near the road, it typically results in a speed zone, even in desolate Nevada.

That's not true everywhere. My wife's parents live in rural Iowa on a highway that has a 45 mph speed limit. Their home is part of a small cluster of homes and their mailbox is across the road, similar to the circumstances in the OP story.

45 is a speed zone if the normal speed is 60 or 70. I just got done traveling on US 395 through most of California, and we would typically speed zone down to 45, then 40, then 35....around houses. I’m sure there are actually well defined rules about this in California.

Regardless, living on a highway is not prime real estate.

Sounds like CA and IA work differently. 45 is the speed limit for that highway because it's windy. On the straighter roads, the limit is usually 50-55. However, there are still no speed zones (as you call them) for small clusters of houses.

The whole west works different I think. I mean, who in their right mind would build their house right next to the highway (without a fairly long highway) if they didn't have to? As long as you have the land, you would build it 50-100 meters back!

The only time I see otherwise is if mountains or rivers are involved, or there is density (in which case it is sure to be zoned!).

There are many types of highways. You might even call these rural roads just roads, even if they share the default speed limit for the area (80 km/h here).

With very low traffic density, you might build the house closer to the road (maybe 10m off, separated with trees) for just that reason – to save land. (Not all rural houses are farms.)

It's common in the midwest and becoming an issue when towns expand and traffic picks up. Mailboxes on the opposite side of a county road should be illegal. I'm surprised actually that they are not.

Uh...have you ever driven anywhere rural...anywhere? If you have to drive 100 miles in rural area, going 30 mph would never fly. But, people ( including children) often live along these roads. I grew up in a place like that.

People live directly off of highways. So highways should be 25 mph? 30mph?

99% of Sweden is rural, most of it with a significantly lower population density than the areas you're referring to, and they too had a lot of people that lived directly on their main roads.

It's a limit not a target, if it's not safe to drive at that speed then don't.

True, although drivers shouldn't drive at the posted speed limit if it's not safe.

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