Thursday, May 22, 2008

Keeping driveways safe

Like every mother, I'm heartsick over Maria Chapman's death.

My kids play in the driveway, too. Without a gate.

I'm always nearby, of course, and we have a strict family policy--no backing out unless all kids are indoors.

But what about the UPS truck or an unexpected visitor? Would they see a toddler around the bend of a long drive? Would I?

When we first moved, I considered this retractable driveway guard.

Ideally, I'd like a removable barrier near the foot of the drive (when we play in the front) and at the bend (when we play on the back steps).

Today's Lowes trip had an urgency like no other. I bought a 25' roll of plastic fencing and four 3' posts. Less than $20, tops.

I hammered the stakes, then stretched the fencing across the their hooks. One roll was long enough for 2 barriers.

When not in use, the fencing can be rolled around one stake or stored inside. Orange construction fencing would have more visibility. A more enterprising parent could also cut down a volleyball net.

A barrier like this won't keep the kids in, but I hope it will keep the cars OUT, or at least, slow them down.
What are your strategies for driveway safety?

56 comments:

TracyMichele said...

Learned this trick from my own parents.. we park our car diagonally across the end of our driveway so (1) the kids can't roll into the street on their bikes and (2) cars can't enter our driveway. My brother drove by the other day, saw the strange car parking and called me laughing, "were the kids playing in the driveway?". haha.

Meredith said...

Now that's a more frugal idea!

However, I'm home a lot without a car, so I had to come up with something I could pull across when we go outside.

Anonymous said...

Is a fence not an option?

Meredith said...

No, not in this neighborhood.

We may consider a gate if our neighbors install the fence they're talking about. We'll see.

LynnMarie said...

I like what you came up with to keep your children safe - smart mom! I can't image what the Chapman's are going through - especailly the teen boy who was driving! How very sad!
Our children are grown now but we stayed nearby too to keep them safe. We also had large toys like a wagon or bikes blocking the drive to keep cars out of the drive if we were playing there. Today there is a lot more things that can be used - like what you came up with.

Renee said...

My neighbors use orange construction cones across the bottom of their driveway. Again it doesn't keep the kids in, but is a visual barrier for drivers.

Valerie said...

I imagine you doing this to your driveway as partly therapeutic. It feels better to "do something" about this so that it hopefully doesn't happen to you. We don't play in our driveway at the current house, but it is something I will now be ever more mindful of in future homes, and when visiting others.
The absolute horror.

Mama Squirrel said...

It wouldn't be practical here to put up a fence, but maybe a hockey net would work?

We live on a busy street, close to the road, and so don't use our front yard much, but the kids do like to play on the paved driveway. When they were little, we would draw a chalk line a safe distance from the street, and tell them that they must not, for any reason, go past that safe line. Of course I kept an eye on them as well to make sure there were no infractions--that was one unbreakable rule, and they caught on pretty quick because the cars whiz by here very fast.

They also don't play with balls or anything of that sort in the driveway.

Sandy said...

I am so sad to hear about the loss.

We constantly worried about the kids playing - we put signs in the middle of the street to slow down, then people would steal them.

Just have to keep a watchful eye on the younger kids - but soon they grow up and you won't have to worry as much.

Our mother's worried about us too, I have to remember that! :)

Mama Squirrel said...

And thanks for posting the link to the story about Chapmans--how terribly sad.

Stephanie@AHighandNobleCalling said...

Just the other day our children were playing in the neighbors yard, and the pizza delivery guy came FLYING up the driveway.

We politely told him that there are children at play in the yard and to please watch out and slow down. He apologized...but still it gets you thinking

Hadias said...

I've never even considered this. My husband is always cautious when oulling into the driveway. He slows down and always looks out for the kids.

But what about when visitors stop by...I never thought about this since we don't have unexpected visitors.

The UPS and FedEx drivers have never (that I can remeber pulled into anyones driveway in the neighborhood.

Even with these facts it is a scary thought to imagine someone oulling in and hitting my children in my own driveway.

Thanks for opening my eyes to this.

Hadias said...

I used to park the car in front of the driveway when we had two cars.

Like you said this would be an even more frugal options, if you already owned more than one car.

Meredith said...

I've never really worried about the driveway issue until this house.

Something about its long, straight nature--with a near 90 degree bend behind the house--makes it seem particularly dangerous.

Like I said, it's something I've been putting off for ages.

Both I and my husband have been guilty of whipping around the back play area, only to see one or both of the kids playing on the back steps.

I asked my husband to start honking as he makes the turn, but then the kids caught on and started running to the car...possibly even worse!

So...

--orange cones
--hockey or soccer goals/nets
---parking cars diagonally
--

what else do you use?

Anonymous said...

oh that is so heartbreaking...
I hadn't heard the news.
Hugs
Kathy

Ann-Marie said...

Hi- I also park my car sideways in the driveway. We also have those bright orange cones that we line across the driveway.

Milehimama said...

We use a crossing guard!

When backing out, all of the children have to stand on the steps, except the oldest who is the crossing guard. I roll down the window and he gives me the 'all clear'.

I hadn't thought of other people using our driveway - it's a single wide, so if we're parked there it's not a problem.

Anonymous said...

When my kids were small, we would pull out our garbage bins (the city ones on wheels) and block our driveway with them. Not so pretty a sight, but we just used what we had on hand.
Nancy

Mar said...

Meredith, thanks for the post. How terribly sad...

I drive aSaturn VUE SUV and back into spots about 98% of the time because I'm always afraid I'll hit someone coming out of a parking lot. It's especially hard to see small children, even though the VUE isn't that big.

I've never had the driveway issue but I think the ideas suggested so far are very good. I do have this vision of you weaving seasonally colored ribbons through the netting you purchased... LOL!

Anonymous said...

I wish I could say I have never heard of this kind of accident before. But, in my family we had a similar thing happen almost 30 years ago. My sister's mother in law was backing out of her own drive way when she ran over a neighbor's child who was hiding behind the car. Mrs. G. did not know they were playing a game, did not know the children were there, and was in a hurry to go to the store...she has lived with this for all these years and it still haunts her.
Anyway I think the idea of putting the fence along the drive way is a great idea. I have been known to pull the garbage cans out and block the drive. It works well. I have 6 cans. Even if you just have 2 it would be enough to make some one notice.
Thank you for bringing this to the attention of everyone. You never know it might save a life. Roxie

Joy of Frugal Living said...

That is so terribly sad.

I think the ideas here are very good. Since you can't control the situation at friend's houses and such, maybe it's a good idea to work on training the kids on driveway safety too? Just a thought.

Jennifer

Anonymous said...

Just one more idea.....most of the box home improvement stores ie Home Depote-Lowes-Menards sell 5 or 6 foot sections of wooden fence. These can be easily used as a portable block at the end of a driveway simply placed up against 2trash cans....again won't keep kids in but will keep drivers OUT!
Pam, South Bend

Alison B. said...

Thanks for bringing this to attention. I have never thought about this, but it really hits home. My daughter is a Chinese adoptee and she is 5. I can't imagine losing her .

TJ said...

We have a steep drive, so this is very frightening for me. Whenever one of us backs up, the kids must be with the other.

I'm much more concerned at our home with the kids running into the street, which happens to be viewed as a personal racetrack by some.

That is terrible to hear though, I kept seeing the news scroll across the bottom of the tv this morning, but wasn't sure of the who. The family is in my prayers.

blessedme said...

I park our suburban at the end of the driveway up against the wall, out of the kids playing area. If someone is leaving, all the kids are indoors and they are only outside if I'm outside with them. We also do what tracymichele does when we are both home, the cars are parked, so that it is a barrier to the kids and the road.

Amy G. said...

So sad. For this reason, we don't play in the driveway, ever. My thoughts and prayers to the Chapman family.

Anonymous said...

My grandma had posts on each side of the driveway with a cable that ran across it. She hung stuff on the cable to make it visible. One end of the cable had a dog clip on it and it hooked on a eye hook screwed into the post.

SK and Family said...

I always worry about backing over one of my children in our driveway. When I am leaving the house alone, I lock our key-only lock on the door. I also always walk behind our van to get in. Sometimes, I even call my house and ask my dh or oldest son if everyone is accounted for, before backing out!

I have heard of so many cases of children being backed over (last week, the niece of a friend died this way in Sugarland, TX) and I was surprised when I read the SCC article that his daughter was in front of the car. I will definitely be blocking our driveway somehow when our little ones play in the front...

20dollarsaday said...

Ditto the car-in-the-driveway idea: Our friends park their car in the street, blocking the entrance to their driveway.

Anonymous said...

We live down a clay dirt path with a bend in it. There are 6 homes back here. My children have never been allowed to ride their bikes or walk the path ever...we've lived here for 14 years.

But we have neighbors (they are renters, who have landlords who don't care) who treat the path like an extension of their property.

Yesterday I went grocery shopping...as I was coming up the path the head of a 4 year old little boy popped up behind a pile of dirt his daddy put there so his kids could have a place to play. There were no adults anywhere!!!

On Saturday, we had been away and as we came home (our daughter was following behind us) a little boy rode his bike out about a foot ahead of us...Thank God my husband just creeps in. But hang on...another child came out and then a third child. The third child darted out across the path then turned and went right back across and then we my husband thought he was finally were he wanted to stay...nope he came out again and then we slowly followed the child as he weaved back and forth.

Behind us we didn't see that a little 2 year old girl darted out in between our vehicle and our daughters. There were adults who apparently didn't even notice what had happened.

Now get this...another neighbor was coming up the path and when she gently told them not to play in the middle of the path the little 4 year old boy cursed at her! Again no adults.

And how about this...the adults (who belong to those same kids) drive extremely fast up the path...which has a bend and is a dead-end. Oh and the "mom" actually hit a dog once. You should have heard the dog crying...sad.

I feel better now. Paula

Jane said...

While your solution is not designed to keep kids in, it is a visual reminder to them too. It's good training. I might suggest knotting a few bright strips of ribbon to the plastic netting so that it is all the more visible.

hsgbdmama said...

For cars coming into the driveway, I make sure all kids are accounted for. We've also made it a firm, non-negotiable rule that they are to be out of the way when cars are present and no playing in the street -- these are rules enforced right off the bat, with the consequence being going in the house if the rules are not followed.

Additionally, I am also outside with them when they are out.

Tracey said...

Good idea....I did not know of this family...thanks for posting the link!!!

Anonymous said...

So many prayers for the dear son and family!

Your retracting fence idea is inspired, Meredith.

Could you use a mirror at your 90 degree bend? A sign for visitors?

What we used for the driveway: a chalk line on top of a crack, well set-back from the street. They were trained to respect it (not even a toe over the line), and there were always swift and memorable consequences. One time a friend and I purposely set up a scenario where the visiting children had to immediately go home for violating the rule. It made an impact.

And an adult's constant presence (sitting in lawn chairs or gardening) between them and the street when outside playing.

I also taught them to respect cars, not to even crouch down behind a still one while playing hide-n-seek. Always to look for the driver's eyes.

House egress doors were slide-bolted at the top of the door frame; at that young age they were not allowed outside alone, but just in case one got the idea ...

Even now, as pre-teen and teen, they must stand on the back steps when cars are backing out of the garage, and one acts as a crossing guard like another post-er said.

weep. I keep remembering the Chapman family.

deb meyers

Nae and Clara said...

We have a very short driveway, but it runs into a cul de sac where all the neighborhood kids love to play. Our van (a Nissan Quest) has a camera and backup sensor so we can see whatever is behind us and it beeps if you get within so many feet of something. I wouldn't drive a van or suv without this feature - it's just too dangerous. As far as keeping my kids safe when they're playing - they have to stand on the porch when anyone is backing up and they really don't play in the front yard much unless we're out there. As someone else mentioned, I don't see delivery people pulling into driveways around here. They park at the bottom and walk up maybe they do this to prevent an accident like this. Our prayers are with the Chapmans.
Clara

Amy said...

We have an extremely long driveway and it is flat so the kids have plenty of room to play without going into the street. Living in a cul de sac has helped with the traffic as well. If I am worried, we block with cars to make things harder to get around, but the kids are pretty good about it.

I really love this frugal approach though!

Mod Girl said...

Our driveway is flat at the top, but then descends and curves a bit down to the street. I have park the car at the point where the drive starts to descend and curve. The boys know that they are allowed to play in the flat area in front of the car, but that they are not allowed to play past or behind the car.

Eventually we'd like to complete the partial privacy fencing around our backyard. When/if we do this we'll also fence off the flat, "play area" of the driveway.

The best solution is to always be vigilant to look. As an extra precaution we have considered installing a "back-up alarm" (don't know what else to call it) to our cars -- a sensor that starts to beep when you're going in reverse and get with 5 feet of someone/something.

My Boaz's Ruth said...

We HAVe a backup alarm on our van -- which would be great if it went off when I didn't expect it. I'd know something unexpected wa there.

But it goes off TOO early. So If I'm backing up and there's a tree behind me (common where I have to park right now) I know when the alarm goes off that I don't need to stop because there is a TREE there. I have more space to back up before I hit it.

So I ignore it.

Jen said...

I think the scariest thing to me is that the Chapman boy wasn't backing up. He was pulling IN and couldn't see her playing over the high SUV hood. I know two families who killed their own children in their driveways. So very sad. I make our children stand where I can see them until I am out of the driveway. They are older but you can never be too careful.

Anonymous said...

Good idea. 6 years ago, I was about to back my car out of my apartment's parking space when I thought, "Gee, I haven't seen the little boy who lives next door in a couple of minutes." I hopped out and walked around the back of the car. My neighbor's 2 year old son was standing directly behind the left rear tire, clinging to the car bumper. I picked him up, gave him a hug, and knocked on my neighbor's door and handed him to his mother (she spoke no English so I wasn't able to tell her what almost happened). When I got back into the car, I was shaking so hard that I couldn't drive for a few minutes. There was no doubt in my mind that I would have killed him if I hadn't had a "God Breeze" that told me to double-check before I backed out of my parking space. Since that day, I always double-check and I closely supervise my own children. In our house, you can't drive off unless the kids are in front of the car directly in sight. Miss Kris

Anonymous said...

back many years ago when I was a new mother I always parked my van across the bottom of my driveway so no one could drive in while my children were playing outside. If the car wasn't available my DH made me two wooden horses,(the kind you cut wood on) and they guarded the end of our driveway, I still have old trigger and silver, maybe I'll pull them out for grandkids one day.

Rachel said...

My word, that's a tragedy. I watched the You-Tube video of her and her dad washing dishes... it's so sad to think of such a bright little girl gone.

When I was a kid, we had a gate across our driveway. No fence, but we had gateposts and a simple gate installed to keep the driveway closed off. In retrospect, I suppose it might have looked strange, but it was effective.

Michelle said...

Our children have never been allowed to play in our driveway or front yard. Only the backyard and only while being supervised by an adult or older teen child.

I weep when I think of the grief the Chapman family must be going through. After a similar tragedy in Regina Doman's family last year, it's made me much more aware. Our van is backed into the driveway, and when we pull out someone walks around the vehicle to give the all clear.

Natalie from Nashville said...

First of all, my heart goes out to the Chapman family.

Last year my son and I were gardening. I sent him down the driveway to the garage to get a shovel, and the person who reads the water meter came zipping down the street and into our driveway. Luckily my son had just entered the garage, but I shudder to think what would have happened otherwise. Since then, I either park my car on the edge of the driveway, or we set out our recycling bins and storage tubs (which hold our balls).

Anonymous said...

I wept today when I saw the family photo and watched the Youtube video. The thought that I had, more than anything else, is just how brief our time is with our children, and how precious every moment is. It's good to be reminded of that when we sometimes get tired of the day-to-day grind. I think you will see many people doing things like Meredith did, in light of this tragedy. So very, very sad.
Susan

VoiceInTheWilderness said...

We've used orange cones in the past. We could put them out when the kids were playing, and bring them back inside when the kids were not out. Now we have a gate across the mid-way point of our driveway (there were posts already there). We try to remember to close it when we go out to play, and we open it when we know Dad is almost home.

Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years said...

I have two acquaintances who lost small children this way. One was just unloading groceries but didn't put on the emergency brake--it rolled over one child at the hands of another. A horrible accident.

So...

From the time my children could understand anything at all, I've taught them to walk around a car on the uphill side. Now, at 5 and 8, they call me on it if they catch me move around the downhill side! Every time.

And because it's not worth it, my kids never, ever, ever play around parked cars. I'm so mean that way, but mine must play in the grass. (Or dirt.) :)

And as often as is possible, we back *into* our spots so as to never need to back out to leave. Especially at places like church when leaving is going to be chaotic.

3boysmama said...

We have a sport court in the back yard where we play 99% of the time; with a locking gate to the front yard. When we bought the house I didn't appreciate it as fully as I do now!

4kids&luvit said...

Thanks for the reminder. We are hoping to pave our drive at some point and I know the kids will be riding their bikes and skating on it all the time. I fully intend to do the bright yellow retractable gate thingie. I agree with your rule- all kids inside when people are leaving or when you are expecting a visitor.

Marva said...

While it hard to process, God does have a perfect plan for each of us. No matter how safe you think your children are, there is always something somewhere that cannot be prevented, even if we are right there.

i am not saying that we should not try and do everything in our power to keep them safe, we should. But, God took Maria because it was his perfect plan.

Please check out this link. Rick (of the Rick and Bubba show) and Sherri Burgess lost their son to a tragic drowning accident January 19th at their home. Sometimes you think you have taken all of the precautions and done all you know and you have. Sometimes it just isn't enough....HE (the Lord) is still in charge. Rick and Sherri are the parents of 5 children. Please listen to his message. I don't think I am this strong....I could not imagine. So powerful....... http://rickandbubba.com/bronner.html.


I commend you Meredith on your idea. Whatever works. Our driveway is over 600 feet long, but leads straight to a U.S. highway.

Maybe the kiddos could play in the back yard? Just a thought.....

I love your blog. You are so creative. Keep up the great work! Blessings!!!!

Steph said...

I think I am going to get some orange cones today from the hardware store (I hope they have them there - I've never looked).

We have workmen in our driveway all the time. I think it will also remind me to be more vigilant - I have a large SUV and 4 small children - and 5 small children next door who are always comingling b/w the yard. VERY scary.

Jen said...

I have since heard this morning that the Chapman's son WAS backing out of the driving rather than pulling in, as I had heard and shared earlier. I'm not sure which story is right but didn't want to pass on incorrect information. Thanks!

barbara said...

We have one of those little neon green guys with a waving orange flag that says "Slow Down." We put it half way up the driveway ONLY WHEN THE CHILDREN ARE OUTSIDE PLAYING - that way visitors and delivery trucks don't get used to it and just ignore it. I've asked visitors and delivery persons what they thought of it and they all tell me the same thing - "Thank you for putting it out, I'm alerted and more careful." I've watched the UPS man count to be sure that he saw all the children before moving ahead or backwards.

Caroline said...

I am also grieving and praying for the Chapman family. Bless you, Meredith, for being so vigilant about your children's safety. My son is a little older and is now out and about on his bike on the road in front of our house. I am planning to buy those orange "CAUTION! Children AT Play" signs tomorrow.

Deedle said...

I tried to talk to Aaron (DH) about this last night. Liam isn't big enough to play outside unattended yet, but 9 months has come and gone quicker than I could have imagined! Right now, we live in an apartment with walk-up entry - there are 3 apartments to a small parking lot, and there is a ton of grass and space for the kiddos who live in the surrounding buildings to play. More than once, DH or I have come flying up the driveway to our side of the building, only to narrowly miss a neighbor from another building's kid playing, UNATTENDED, in our lot. And the best part is the 'Mom' feels the need to come holler at me when this happens - no way, lady. Watch your kid!

I'm not overly concerned about safety where we are at now - we have plans to buy a home within the year (hopefully!), but this got me to thinking about when we do move into that home - how should we safety proof it? Accidents happen, even to the most conscientious of parents, but we always had a strict rule of no one leaving the house if the kids weren't accounted for (whether in the yard or home). We did 'roll call', and my mother always told me that my grandma taught her that NOTHING necessitates such a rush that you can't stop, count your kids, and then go. And my grandma had 7 kids....

I guess safety measures one takes all depend on where you live, and whether you're in a subdivision or not....sounds like you're in one like my folks, Meredith. No fences, gates, etc. The kids here play in the street all the time, and it is rather annoying - I know many folks live on a river here and don't have much of a front yard, but honestly...the street IS NOT a place to play. One lady down the road has these bright green 'people' with big long flags that she puts out that say "Watch for children". But she doesn't supervise her kiddos...

I'm going to talk to my folks about this when they get home - we spend a ton of time here and honestly, they have a scary driveway. There's a 90 degree curve with trees on both sides. You don't even see the house until you get up to the garage! UPS and FedEx HAVE to pull in. I think that the fencing idea with two or three bright flags attached for when the children are playing is a good idea.

And frankly, if a UPS/FedEx driver came flying up my driveway, I'd probably feel compelled to call their district and gripe. All that work, creating, carrying, and raising a baby, just for someone to be rushing? No thanks...I'll err on the side of overprotective.

Sorry for the random vent, but it is sad that a famous person's child had to die to get other folks to take their own seriously, and use common sense. Since it is getting to be summer, everyone also needs to think about pool safety as well. Please teach your children about how dangerous the water can be, and get them enrolled in lessons to help them!

*sigh* Off my soapbox....

ShabbyInTheCity said...

I went to college with Steven C. Chapman's brother and Steve would come up on weekends and we'd all go out to eat. I was a big groupie back then watching the two good-looking brothers sing in Nashville's theme park Opryland and touring Gatlinburg, etc....so my heart really broke for that family and I don't know how but God alone...they will heal. I read where the other siblings saw the whole accident.