Dancing in the Streets

It seems kids rarely play outside anymore, and when they do,
parents go haywire worrying that l’il Jane’s tricycle trip around
the block will become a kamikaze death mission. She could fall and
be injured, drift into speeding traffic, or get run over by a
speeding teenager on his way to the mall.

In the modern world, sadly, many of these parental concerns
about kids and cars are not paranoid flights of fantasy. Speeding
on residential streets and in school zones is one of the most
pervasive outdoor safety issues for children. Each year in the
United States, 650 pedestrians ages 14 and under die in motor
vehicle-related crashes and an additional 20,000 children suffer
injuries. The most at-risk group of pedestrians involved in traffic
accidents are 5- to 9-year-old males, who tend to dart out into the

In the Netherlands, Carbusters (July-Sept.
2005) reports, a volunteer organization called 3VO (Voor Veilig
Verkeer — For Traffic Safety) has been working for almost 20 years
to put a stop to pedestrian traffic injuries by sponsoring National
Street Playing Day. In June, 2,000 streets in the Netherlands were
closed to motorized traffic — a significant increase since the
first National Street Playing Day in 1986 — and 250,000 kids came
out to play.The rest of the world may want to pay attention to
3VO’s success. In about a third of participating Dutch towns, city
administrators have implemented new traffic safety measures such as
laying down crosswalks and fencing in playgrounds. Children are
returning to the streets to play and so, too, is the art of having
carefree fun — which should be a rite of passage, and a
fundamental right of childhood, for kids all over the world.

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