Opinion: The coroner's remarks over Carla Neems' death are futile

In 2018 there was a push for children to walk, bike, or scooter to school.
In 2018 there was a push for children to walk, bike, or scooter to school. Photo credit: Getty Images

OPINION: I remember the guilt-trip this time last year when the AA released a report revealing parents don't allow kids to walk to school. 

Parents blamed traffic outside schools, uneven footpaths, speeding drivers and a lack of pedestrian crossings.

The outrage. The parent-bashing. There were opinion pieces on how parents these days are raising a generation of snowflakes, and how kids should be allowed - nay, be MADE - to walk or bike to school. 

There was even a campaign pushing for kids to get out of cars and walk, bike or scooter to school. 

As a parent who drives to school to pick up my nine-year-old and six-year-old, I took these comments to heart. After all, I had walked to and from school growing up. 

Because we don't live within walking distance of the school, as a compromise, I began parking in an empty church carpark down the road and my children would walk down to meet me - I figured I was no longer contributing to the outside school traffic circus, and that my children could get a small sense of the freedom I had growing up. 

Here's the problem, though. Parents are judged for not giving children enough freedom - but we are slammed if we end up giving our kids "too much" freedom.

In the wake of the death of six-year-old Carla Neems, who was killed by a recycling truck outside her home in Gisborne, coroner Tim Scott ruled that Carla should have been accompanied by an adult on her journey home from school.

Tragedy can strike at any time. And while, as parents, we make decisions we think are best for our children, we will never be able to remove every risk. 

Carla's parents Dion and Fiona Neems spoke to NZME about the ruling.

"It's all about mitigating risk, and we live in a quiet street with very low levels of traffic, one crossing on the way to school and she was always walked there by her older siblings.

"That day she was walked home by an older friend, and only walked the last 100m on her own - so we feel as parents that we mitigated that risk well," Dion Neems told NZME.

Carla's parents told Stuff they would change anything that happened on May 2, 2017, if it meant Carla was still alive. They said the coroner's remarks were futile.

This is, of course, true.

No amount of blame will ever match what a parent already feels if something tragic happens to their child.

Rhonwyn Newson is Newshub's feature editor.