Friday, 25 November 2011

Drive Safe!

The roads of North Yorkshire are said to be some of the most dangerous in the country. I have heard police spokesmen say that the police are more concerned about road safety than about crime levels in the region which are, relatively speaking, low. Last Sunday, I travelled from Ripon to Wetherby on the A1 in fairly thick fog. It was scarey to be passed by vehicles doing easily 100mph while traveling at 50mph in the slow lane. Basically, they were hurtling into the unknown - there could have been anything infront of them including a pile up of vehicles or an unlucky broken-down driver emerging from a car or lorry.  In the summer we also have motor bikes speeding up and down dales, often overtaking round blind bends or in dips. I ended up in a ditch on the way back from Masham a couple of years ago, when an oncoming car emerged from a dip in the road, overtaking a tractor. Farm traffic, horse boxes, cyclists and pedestrians do not stand much chance of avoiding the ill-judged manouvre. When such an accident occurs, the victim's family's life is never the same again, and neither is the life of the person who causes the accident. It all happens in a split second. Clergy hear these stories all the time. 

I was struck, today, by an item on the radio. A school had set up a scheme with the local police. Motorists who were caught speeding past the school were given a choice; they could either take their fine and have the points on their licence, or they could come into the school and meet the children. The children were geared up (apologies for the pun) to explain to the motorists just how their driving habits impacted on the local community in terms of deaths, injuries, fear, noise and inability to be out and about on the streets. Apparently most motorists were embarrassed, moved and even tearful after their encounters with the children. They are likely to remember these encounters long after they have forgotten about the points wiped clean from their licenses.

From long ago, I know someone who was driving, very moderately, at 30mph and who knocked over a child who dashed across the road; not their fault. Because my friend was driving moderately, the child survived but it took my friend a long time to come to terms with what might have been a much, much worse accident. This could happen to any of us. 

It's partly about time, isn't it? Why are we are all so short of time? Why are we so driven? The clergy and readers of this area rush around on Sundays, trying to get from service to service without being late. Sunday is a day when there are always lots of cyclists on the road. Many of my colleagues and I spend our lives rushing from meeting to meeting - and this is as nothing compared to the sales and haulage people who have tight schedules to keep, or the nurses and care workers who have to fit a certain number of calls into an hour. 

I worked in A and E for a while and I have done hundreds of funerals over the years. Friends, it is never worth taking that extra risk to be there on time, if it means potentially endangering others or ourselves. And if we are breaking the law, then we are almost certainly tasking that risk. Be unpopular and be late! Be a nuisance and keep people waiting! Postpone or canel an event if you really can't get there. It might be your life you are saving or it might be somebody else's.

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