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The day I accidentally killed a little boy (bbc.co.uk)
573 points by sjcsjc 11 months 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?

You are correct—it's around 100 stranger abductions per year in the U.S.

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

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.


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