Many parents don’t let their kids walk to school or play outside on their own for fear of pedestrian-automobile accidents, bicyclist-automobile accidents, or sexual predators. Instead, they end up spending a lot of time driving their kids to school and to structured activities like sports practices and games, playdates, music lessons, etc.
The data I’ve uncovered indicates that far more children in the United States die as passengers in motor vehicle accidents than the sum total of children who die as pedestrians, bicyclists, and victims of sexual predators.About 2,500 children under 16 die each year in motor vehicle accidents. (See p. 25 of this article.) About 20% of traffic fatalities to children under 16 are to pedestrians (see p. 10 of this article), and about 130 are bicyclists (see this article), so of the 2,500 motor vehicle deaths, about 1,820 occur when the child is a passenger in a vehicle.
About 100 children are abducted by strangers per year, and about 50 of these are killed, with the rest being returned to their parents. (See this article for a summary of the data on sexual predators.)
So, here’s the tally:
- death as motor vehicle passenger = 1,820
- death as roamer = 500 + 130 + 50 = 680
That’s almost a three to one greater risk of death as a passenger in a motor vehicle passenger than death as a roamer – i.e. the sum total of death as a pedestrian, bicyclist, and victim of a sexual predator.
Does all this mean that soccer moms (or dads) are evil? Of course not. Parents don’t have evil intent when they get into accidents that injure or kill their children.
However, it does indicate that parents grossly overestimate the danger of their children roaming around on their own, and they grossly underestimate the danger of driving their kids around.
Parents think they’re keeping their kids out of danger by driving them around rather than letting them play, walk, and bicycle in their neighborhoods. The data strongly indicates otherwise…
[Note: I’ve rounded numbers to make the math simple and taken data from different years for this analysis by necessity. However, I have not biased the results in one direction or another. In any event, the results are so strong that I’m quite sure that “perfect data” would not alter the basic result.]