Last week Julia M's entertaining blog featured an incident in which a child was run over by a car near her school. Now it is rarely difficult to distinguish Julia from a Guardian reader, and she is famed for making short work of Counsel for the defence's pleas of mitigating circumstances. In this instance, unusually, she was inclined to sympathize with the perpetrator, and quoted a comment from the relevant local paper with approval:-
My thoughts go out to all involved in this horrific accident. Praying that the little girl is ok. Having known the driver of the car since I was 4 years old I can tell you she is a lovely lovely person and had very good reason to be driving That morning and believe me she is absolutely devastated over whats happened. Before we judge tho it is also children's parents responsibility to teach road safety and if your child doesn't know this then they should be accompanied safely to wherever they are going. It was an accident where a child walked right out in front of the driver and could have happened to anyone. I feel for all parties involved as it was not the child's fault she wasn't supervised by a responsible adult as much as it wasn't the drivers fault this child walked in the path of the car.... this prompting Julia to conclude:-
Hmmm. Like School Road itself, it seems that responsibility is a two-way street...Now comes a counter-hmmm(m) from yours truly:-
And should remain that way.
Hmmmm. So the road is called School Road. It has three schools in it. It presumably has signs featuring pictures of children. If the lovely lovely driver couldn't stop in time methinks speed and/or inattention was almost by definition an issue. But, hey, I'm just a poor ignorant non-driver.Not so, says Julia:-
No, not if - as the commenter claims - the child darted out from between parked cars (which as PJH points out, shouldn't have been there).At this point, since Julia is such a prolific blogger that the post is already three pages back, I take up the argument on my own turf.
For the commenter and Julia, the speed limit evidently confers an absolute entitlement to drive that fast. School run in full swing? No need to slow down, the speed limit's 30. Cars parked all over the place? Not my problem, they shouldn't be there. The speed limit's 30.
Though I described myself above as a non-driver, I do in fact hold a full driving licence, acquired at the tender age of 51. I was taking lessons less than three years ago, so they're about as fresh in my memory as anything is these days. And one of the most important things I learnt is that you adjust your speed not just to the speed limit but to road conditions, and specifically to any hazards present.
Parked cars are always hazards, and they do not magically cease to be so because they "shouldn't have been there". Schools are hazards too, and School Road with its three schools is a triple hazard. School Road with the school run in full swing and cars parked in all kinds of places where they shouldn't be is a mega-hazard, and the appropriate speed for it is, well, the speed which would enable you to stop in time if a child darted out from behind one of those parked cars. In other words veeeery slow. And even slower if you're not watching those parked cars like a hawk as you should be.
Because a child's right to life trumps your entitlement to do what you want to do with that lump of steel you go around in. Unconditionally.
Running late? Your problem. Next time start out earlier. Enraged by the mums' inconsiderate and illegal parking? My full sympathy, but two wrongs don't make a right, so drive safely for the conditions as they actually are. Nobody else drives like that? Well, you can be the first. If you haven't made a New Year's resolution yet, you might like to think about resolving to minimize the risk that you will ever run over a child. Because you don't want to be part of the culture of death, do you?