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In the wrong place at the wrong time

It broke my heart to read about the 5-year old kinder boy who was killed crossing the road in Kingsgrove last week.

It broke my heart for his parents, for the people who loved him, but also for the woman who was driving the car who hit him.

You see, this was almost me a year ago.

I was driving my daughter to school and had just turned into the street that runs alongside it. It’s a 40 km/h School Zone and I was doing barely 20 km/h, as I am paranoid about kids dashing out into the street in front of me. Then a kid dashed out into the street in front of me.

He literally darted out between two parked cars headlong into the corner of my bonnet. As the street is so narrow, he’d almost made it to the other side when my car struck him. As I was going so slowly, he was only pushed onto the road. I remember the thud of him striking the car. I remember the churning bile sensation in my throat when I heard the thud.

I stopped the car to check that he wasn’t seriously hurt (making a lot of friends in the cars backed up down the street. Not) and was relieved when he got up from the road. A parent who knew the boy happened to be walking by and helped me deliver him to his house, which was directly opposite the school.

It turned out that the boy was a Preppie who thought it might be a good idea to pop home for a cuddle before the school bell went, armed only with optimism and a lack of road sense. His mother had no idea he’d even left the school. Neither did the teacher on yard duty. Fortunately, the boy only sustained a grazed forehead from where his head had butted the asphalt. He was lucky. I could have killed him.

There were a lot of “what-ifs” that day. “What if” I’d been driving a 4WD (as the woman in the Kingsgrove accident had been) – I may not have seen him before it was too late. “What if” I’d been going only 5km faster – I may have collected him with a much greater force. Parents who heard about the incident at school wanted to make sure I was OK – was I in shock (I must have been in shock)? I don’t remember being in shock, as I knew that I had done nothing wrong.

It was simply an unfortunate circumstance that the preppie and my car had occupied the same place in space and time. But then again, if I had killed him, I know for certain that my life would have been altered forever, that I would hear that thud in my head every single day of my life. Through absolutely no fault of my own.

Since that incident, I’ve heard stories of friend’s family members being involved in road accidents where they were not at fault but had inadvertently killed somebody, very similar to the mother in the Kingsgrove accident who, by all accounts, was driving slower than the speed limit. Although I don’t know the details of that case, I do know that there are good people out there whose lives change because of a collision of not-quite-right split-second decisions from all the people involved.

The mother of the preppie I had hit thanked me almost exhaustively for days after the incident, thanking me for driving slowly, thanking me for braking my car when I did. Thanking me for not killing her child. And whenever I see her and her boy crossing that road, she is clinging to his hand like she will never be parted from him.

He was lucky to have the chance to hold his mum’s hand again. The little Kingsgrove boy and his grieving mother were not. And there is a woman out there, who probably did all she could under the circumstances, who will have that on her hands for the rest of her life.

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