Why Are You Driving Your Kids to School?

Raise Kids Without Spending a Fortune
Be the Agitator

No Baloney - Why are you driving your kids to school

Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna_sausage
Red circle credit: My own rockin’ graphic design skills…

Tell me: Why are you driving your kids to school? It’s too far. It’s cold outside. It’s raining. The path isn’t plowed. You need to get to work, stat. It’s too dangerous for them to walk.

Baloney.

When I was growing up, Mom often made bologna sandwiches. Yum. Well, not really. I think Dad must have enjoyed them, but I sure didn’t. This time, though, I don’t need to swallow the baloney. (By the way, when did bologna turn into baloney? And why is bologna pronounced baloney? But I digress…)

Today we’re going discuss why you should get out of your motorized La-Z-Boy (er, I mean car) and walk or bike your kids to school. And poof – half of you said “nope” and just clicked away. But I will continue to type away with the hopes that some of you have an open mind and will choose to put your keys away.

Before I get going, I need to commend my wife. She dutifully trudges back and forth each day to walk or bike our little guy to and from school. Our older son takes the school bus to a different school now, but Andrea used to frequently walk him to school, too, back in the day. I say this not because our family is the “be all and end all”, but rather as a means of encouragement and a testament to the fact that yes, it can be done!

So let’s start by outlining why driving your kids to school is a bad idea, and then we’ll move on to some common excuses and what you can do to beat them down.

Driving is a Bad Idea

There are actually plenty of reasons why driving in general is a bad idea. It harms the environment, wastes gas, puts wear and tear on your car, eliminates an opportunity for free exercise, and costs a fortune.

However, when you drive your kids to school, it’s mostly like a very short trip. And short trips are terrible on your car. Everything I just listed above is substantially worse for short trips. Maybe in your case you’re about to rush off to work, in which case the to/from school leg is effectively not as short, but it still sucks.

But the real reason why driving to school is a bad idea is because of the absolute chaos that is the school drop-off / pick-up zone.

school_line_mmm

“A lineup of Clowns waiting to drive their kids a few blocks home from school, on a beautiful Hawaiian afternoon during my vacation (January 2013).” Photo credit: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/04/22/curing-your-clown-like-car-habit/

Chaos Causes Crashes

Perhaps school zones in newer neighbourhoods are a little better designed, but I doubt it. (Prove me wrong in the comments, please!) In general, schools were not intended to have several hundred parents attempting to simultaneously converge with 3000-4000 lb of steel each. (Just to transport 100 lb of kids? Seems like a bit of a ridiculous ratio, doesn’t it?)

But let’s take that a step further. Most parents (and we’ve been guilty, too) are simply in too much of a rush. Maybe it’s getting to work or an appointment after drop-off. Or maybe in rushing to school after work. And thus, almost every day is absolute, utter chaos because of our me-first, my-kid-deserves-better entitlement society.

Let’s get sober for a minute here. Nobody likes to think of this, but it’s important to never forget: Collisions do happen in the drop zone. And unfortunately, sometimes they occur with fatal results. If you want some recent examples, you can read more here and here. Now, to be sure, fault and blame are not specifically stated in the articles. But that’s not the point. The point is that there is chaos and danger there, which is significantly exacerbated by the high number of drivers in general and of rushed or distracted drivers in particular.

In London, there is recognition of this fact. Very recently, all speed limits in school zones were decreased from 50 km/h to 40 km/h. Some schools have even had their drop-off / pick-up zones redesigned where possible. But the fact remains that there are simply too many of us driving our kids to school.

Why Not Walk or Bike?

Most of our parents probably never drove us to school. Granted, bussing was more generally available then, but it’s still widely available now. So why, then, do so many of us insist on driving to school these days? Here’s my “very scientific” list of excuses and why I think they’re baloney.

I Don’t Have Time

In today’s society, we seem to place value and social status on “being busy”. Being busy for periods of time is totally fine and can lead to some excellent personal growth and community support, as well as career advancement. But structuring your life so that you’re always busy and don’t have time to smell the roses is just a big mistake.

Our kids are only young once. Would you rather spend a half-hour getting free exercise and spending time with them and other parents, or spend that time sitting in a cubicle somewhere or rushing in your car, shielded by perceived anonymity and frustrated at all of the other drivers? (Because of course 80% of us think we’re better than the average driver…)

So make the time.

Change your lifestyle. Say “no” once in a while. Drop out of an activity or two. You are a parent, so be present with your kids.

It’s Too Far

Assuming your bus limit is 1.6 km as it is here in London, and assuming you live 1.59 km from the school, and assuming you have a December-born 3 yr old who’s attending junior kindergarten, then I could see a reasonably strong argument for that being a bit far to walk on a daily basis. But that’s also what bike trailers and strollers are for. Or perhaps you should have bought a house that was closer to the school? Or consider sending your kids to a different school (such as French Immersion) that offers a bus.

It’s Raining

This one’s easy: Unless it’s a torrential downpour, get a rain coat, some rubber boots and an umbrella. Then walk. You’re not the Wicked Witch of the West, and the water won’t make you melt. Dress appropriately and go get that fresh air.

boots-and-umbrella

It’s Too Cold

There is definitely validity to this one, but it’s also very quantifiable. The schools and most daycares have policies whereby outdoor recess is cancelled for young children when the temperature with wind chill dips below a certain number. Then it’s really cold, and you have a standing argument. On the other hand, like with the rain, just dress appropriately and get out there.

Full disclosure: This is where we bail out. When it’s crazy cold, we often drive the little guy. But in fairness, my wife still despises it because of all the chaos at the school.

There’s Too Much Snow

Again, this is one where we will at times bail and start up the car. Usually the sled comes out for the trek through the park, but sometimes the snow is simply too fresh and deep to walk through. But generally speaking, the sled is awesome for hauling kids across snowy fields and sidewalks.

It’s Too Dangerous

This is the most controversial, but it’s also an endless circle. The more people drive, the less safe the walkers feel, and so the more they begin to drive. And on and on. (Isn’t that also why so many people buy large pickup trucks and SUVs?)

And to be fair, there are definitely some dangerous intersections out there.

But there are also ways to be safe.

Just the other day on my drive home, I stopped at a crosswalk to let some students cross. But they refused to cross until they were sure that the car coming the other way was also stopping. That’s called training. And it works. Teach your kids street smarts and how to stay safe. And if you don’t trust them, go with them or set up a “walking bus”. Don’t just complain that it’s dangerous as you’re reaching for your keys.

I’m not professing that you have to never ever drive your kids to school again. There are certainly times when it makes sense to drive, but that is far less frequently then you think.

Back to Baloney

Like with many things, as humans we are subject to confirmation bias. We place more value on the information that confirms our interests than the information that forces us to change. But this blog is about encouraging you to be deliberate with your change. So don’t be a complainypants. Make a decision. Save some money. Get some exercise. Contribute to your community. Make it a safer, friendlier place to be. And say “no” to that extra-large serving of processed Italian meat.

Pencil with ShadowYour Turn Now!

Do you drive your kids to school, or walk or bike? Why or why not? Do you have any tips and encouragement that you can share to help us leave our cars at home and instill new values in our kids?

** UPDATE Feb 12, 2018 **

Hmmm….

School Safety Notice Feb 12, 2018

This notice from the school arrived in our mailbox only 4 days after I published this article! Ironic…?

Raise Kids Without Spending a Fortune
Be the Agitator

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