I don’t often talk about the unbelievably heartbreaking things I sometimes see at work, or the countless, amazing families I am blessed to meet every day. I was one of the many staff working at Sick Kids on a warm July night when I was witness to a parent's worst nightmare, the preventable death of a child from a motor vehicle accident. I was immensely proud to be a physician at Sick Kids that night, as we worked together with the first responders as a team to support one another in the aftermath.
Much is written online about this horrifying event and the tragic death of Georgia Walsh. Sometimes a tragic death enables a community to come together to find meaning in something so unbelievably tragic. In this instance, a grieving community has created a campaign to make our streets safer for our kids. I am so thankful that something amazing is coming of this unimaginable loss.
If you live in the GTA you may have noticed one of the many signs on your neighbours lawns — a simple black and white sign reading “Slow Down Kids at Play.” I hope you have seen many. Concerned Leaside residents have banded together, creating the non-profit organization Kids at Play to “give the residents of cities a collective voice with which to speak out against careless driving.” The goal: urge drivers to slow down in residential areas to prevent further accidents like Georgia’s. The group explains, this is “a reminder to all drivers that this is a neighbourhood community first and a thoroughfare second” and we have “a collective commitment to drive responsibly.” This simple message is clear — stop speeding and watch where you are driving. For a small donation you can have your own sign, as I proudly display on my own lawn.
I see more of these daily. Some streets are lined with them, likely from a generous neighbour who brought several to the area. I hope the city will soon be covered in these signs. But not just for the sake of the campaign, but for the real intended success of reducing pedestrian-related injuries and deaths.
As a parent this has also re-enforced the absolute necessity of teaching and re-teaching our children and their caregivers about road safety.
Consider talking to your kids about walking only on sidewalks or paths, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
Children younger than 12 years of age should never cross streets without a caregiver present. Kids younger than this have difficulty assessing the speed and distance of cars, putting them at risk.
Teach your children to put down electronic devices and look left, right and left again when crossing the street. My mother-in law taught our kids “look left, look right, use your eyes and use your ears before you use your feet.
Remind children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and to watch for cars that are turning or backing up.
When driving, appropriately sized, developmentally appropriate car seats should be used with consistency, even for brief rides.
Tragedy can strike in a brief second, literally. I hope these signs will reduce driver speeds, but we must also take care to educate our little ones about safe outdoor play. Perhaps armed with this, those of us on the front line will see fewer unimaginable injuries.