This week, the Washington Post told us "There’s never been a safer time to be a kid in America” and postulated that stricter parenting is "probably not" a contributor. Why is the news media so reluctant to give modern parents any credit for their parenting style?
The article presents data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that shows that "between 1993 and 2013, the number of child pedestrians struck and killed by cars fell by more than two-thirds, from more than 800 deaths to fewer than 250”. Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University, comments "It's hard to say that much of the decline [in mortality and abduction rates] comes from stricter parenting. There are a lot of factors driving those trends downward -- better safety standards for cars and better pedestrian infrastructure, for instance".
But while child pedestrian deaths decreased by more than two-thirds (71%), the decline in all pedestrian deaths was rather less impressive at 16%. In 1993, the share of all pedestrian deaths that were children was 15% compared to 5% in 2013. Yes, the share of Americans that were children also declined during that period but at a much lower rate.
If better traffic safety standards are the main factor behind the marked decline in child pedestrian deaths, surely we should have also witnessed a similarly marked decline in adult pedestrian deaths? Or do these safety standards only apply to the streets that children use or the cars that hit them? When it comes to the reduction in child pedestrian deaths, how can a change in parenting approach be ruled out?
Unintentional motor vehicle accidents (of which one in five involve a collision with a pedestrian) are still the leading cause of injury deaths for children aged 5 to 14 years in the US. I'm all for greater freedoms in childhood but I certainly wouldn't go as far as suggesting - as the Washington Post seems to - that parents should chill out and let their kids go play in traffic.
Image: Wikimedia Commons