Don’t take your child to school by car in Germany

School started again in Northrhine Westphalia this week – and as usual the local papers are exhorting parents not to drive their children to school by car.

Doing the school run by car exposes children to multiple dangers in Germany it seems. Not only will your child miss out on vital daily exercise, which would be incurred by walking or cycling, but also their social development will be impaired. Making your way to school independently is a first key step in developing independence and responsibility.

But more than this, the sheer volume of traffic around the school gates when parents insist on using the car, means that other children are endangered by having to negotiate busy roads and distracted drivers.

How different this is from the UK where many primary school children are not allowed to cycle to school or even make the journey on their own because of parental fears of abduction or bullying.


Filed under About Germany, children in germany, Life in Germany

20 responses to “Don’t take your child to school by car in Germany

  1. I think it depends on the age of the child and where you live.

    Some children in our area only have a few hundred metres to walk to school, with maybe just one main road to cross.

    Others have to go to a different part of the town altogether, meaning a walk that I would find too long for a primary school child on their own.

    When our daughter started school I was fascinated by the official “Schulwege”, and the information that children should use these for insurance reasons.

    One of them went along a main road, even though a residential road runs parallel and has a lot less traffic.

    Another took the children along along a road, even though there was a footpath directly to the school running parallel! At one parents’ evening someone asked why the footpath should not be used, and the “official” answer was that it is not cleared of snow in the winter, but the footpath on the side of the road is (by the residents, who have to…)!

  2. I’m living the other way around german expat in Spain maybe there is a point about this. Spanish chirldren are from my german point of view overprotected and in the eyes of spanish parents there is an infinite number of dangers wa saiting at each corner. Maybe this leads in part to a society where people in there thirties are still living with there parents and are having a real hard time setting up their own lifes.
    So I do agree that it is important to learn step by step to develop your own independency and going alone to school is one part of it (as there is no private school sector, schools are normally quite near to student’s homes).
    I’d never seen it from this perspective though, so many thanks for the observation again!

  3. Dropped a link to your post at Free Range Kids, an American blog promoting a sane approach to child-rearing. Hope you get a few visits from them.

  4. We don’t have our kids in the German school system, but at a school where morning roads are crammed with school buses and moms dropping off kids.

    This intersection “An der Waldlust” in Oberursel has been a problem for years, but plans are in the making to redirect traffic.

    Walking to school – with friends – has a healthy impact on kids’ development – sharing news, being social, friendly to the environment, etc.

    More on “Benefits of Walking to School” I had written a while ago:

  5. Thought I’d let you know that I dropped a link on to, it’s always interesting to see the US/UK/German discussions on when it is absolutely necessary to use a car as well as what action is critical to the safety and well being of a child… (

  6. G

    I just read of another 13 year old abducted, in daytime, 500m from her house on the way to her cousin in the US. She has not been found and there is as yet no demand. I could start naming them now, but a minute’s google will give you 100’s of names.
    I’m afraid my 7 year old will not be taking the U-bahn to the S-bahn and then walking 1 km to her school alone. Ever. Let alone my 4 year old vorschulekind.

    • Eric

      “I’m afraid my 7 year old will not be taking the U-bahn to the S-bahn and then walking 1 km to her school alone. Ever.”

      Does ‘Ever’ mean you forbid them as a 25 year old? How would you do that? I imagine you could, but the older they get, the harder it will be. By 45, I am sure you will need to microchip them, just to make sure.

      Why not teach them the ability to defend themselves? Don’t you want your child to be a functioning adult?

      More too, do you also want your child to view the world in a fear-based reality?

      Even if you lock your kid in his/her room, anything sharp could be used to poke its eyes out (so make everything blunt…just in case); anything that is heavier than 10grams could be used to smash glass, then they could smear the glass in their eyes (or fall over and cut their whole body), then they will be blind. And it will be because you were careless. etc etc etc.

      • G

        This is a society (and Cathy as I, is in Germany) which, although litigious, believes that risk taken on is one’s own. My kids climb dangerous installations, swim in natural features (with supervision) and hike. They will continue to do so. If they were mentally ill and would smear glass in their eyes, I would supervise and prevent them. In just such a way it is my job to prevent their abduction, murder and rape.
        I’m afraid that when one weighs 40 lbs, the ability to defend against adult males is small. @Eric, do you have small children? What types of unsupervised activities do you allow them? Or are you just blowing smoke.

  7. annonamoose

    It’s a tough issue, and probably depends on the route (which in the case of G’s children is quite a hike) and the individual child. I walked home from school as a child. Over about 3/4 of a mile, my sister and I were alone, and once we were “accosted” – disaster was averted as an older couple came along, but today there’s no one home in a lot of households. With children in the early school years – 1rst, second grade, studies show that time and time again, they go willingly with strangers, no matter what they’ve been taught. If they are a bit older and in a group, I would have fewer concerns. I would have no problem with them using the tram system.

  8. The original post “Taxi Mama birgt Gefahr” was mostly about the dangers of motorized traffic and how to avoid having students get into car accidents.

    Very generally speaking, walking to school – without fear of abduction – is common in Germany.

    Most schools and parents fear of careless drivers instead!!!
    The ADAD has therefore started this initiative of handing out 750,000 safety jackets for new students. See article in German and photo:

  9. Of course, I had meant ADAC (not ADAD).

  10. All depends on the child age and distance of school which child has to pass.
    The decision not to use car may create difficultly for the children who come from far.
    Some parents have fear about abduction or bullying.

    Need Homework Help

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