it is interesting how people look back at and think it was much safer etc. My dad's earliest memory as a kid growing up in Czechoslovakia in the 1930's was being kidnapped at the age of 3, as his mom left him and his baby sister in a pram outside a shop. (Which was a common thing to do as you couldn't really go into the shops with prams anyway, sort of like you see in the Call the Midwife). He remembered that a well dressed man took him by the hand and walked him, and later carried him draped over his arm as he cried and tried to hold onto railings.
Eventually he made it to the trainstation where he was met by a woman in a flower dress but because he kept crying and screaming - they left him there on the platform between the trains. (First the woman got on the train and the man got on just before the train left).
SOme people then took him to what looked like the cafeteria, where one of his aunts found him later in the day (when his mother saw he was missing she alerted the whole family who searched for him all over town.) A prime memory after the incident was being tied to the pram with a rope.
When I was started going to school in the 60s my mom walked me the first day, but after that I went on my own, across town and through traffic. My friend who grew up in the Ottawa valley recalls in the 50s recalls his parents sending his brother to school with the family dog because the dog "knew" traffic.
And yet, our kids who are 9 and 7, do not walk to school on their own but rather we drop them off and pick up at pre-after school care, though we have started to encourage them to go to the playground (a block away) on their own.
Somehow we think there are more dangers than their used to be but in his book The Better Angels of our Nature - Stephen Pinker argues convincingly that there has been a decline in violence (borne out by stats). In the US, a population of 300 million there are approximately 200 children kidnapped annually (mostly by parents) and while a small number < 50 do meet with foul play - we don't consider the far higher danger of all the parents in their cars running over kids as they pick up and drop off their own.
In the end, kids do need to learn to be independent and while safety is important, the trend has been to be over-protective, even dodge ball has been banned because it is considered too violent.