A few days ago outraged media outlets began playing a video showing a child dodging traffic as he ran across a busy intersection.
The video, shot from the dashboard of a car waiting several spaces back from the intersection, shows a woman with a pram begin hurrying across the crossing as the pedestrian light was flashing, urging a young child to follow quickly. She reaches the other side while the child lags behind. The traffic light turns green and cars begin to move forward while the child is still only two-thirds of the way across.
Cars continue to drive on and he is forced to dodge and swerve his way to the other side. Thankfully, he arrives safely.
You can see the video here
The blame for this near disaster was squarely and furiously laid at the feet of the woman (who is referred to fairly consistently as the mother, though there’s no way we know that is true). I am yet to see or read any coverage that even vaguely hints that perhaps the drivers of the cars are also due some of this moral outrage.
What the media are saying
I have seen several television reports of this story, heard about it on the radio often, and read many articles in print and online. It’s the kind of story that begs to be repeated and replayed. There’s a video we can watch, there’s drama to be digested, and there’s a scapegoat to whom we can feel superior.
Media reports take on a personal tone where reporters share the shock of the driver who filmed the incident. Shock that a mother (it’s assumed all women near children are their mothers, remember) could take such a risk with her child’s life. This mother should never have attempted to cross while the pedestrian light was flashing. We all know that means there is limited time left before the traffic sees a green light. If only we could identify this woman we could track her down and make her pay for her crimes. Maybe run her over and see how she likes it. Yes Yes, we are all in agreement, this woman’s behaviour is shameful and reprehensible and the poor child in question will no doubt grow up to despise her as we do. Hear Hear! And so on. And so forth.
Have we all gone mad?
What about the cars waiting at the lights???!! While there can be no debate amongst reasonable people (let’s try and be reasonable dearies) that this woman should have waited for the next set of lights, and that she grossly misjudged how long she had to cross, with near catastrophic consequences; why on earth did the drivers of the cars seen in the video choose to drive forward and force the child to continue crossing amongst moving vehicles?? Are we all so selfish and smug that we would rather risk a child’s life than waver from our right to drive forward when the automated light says we are allowed to?!
I was furious with the drivers’ decisions to move into the child’s path. Then disgusted with the media for implying that they could not be expected to behave any differently.
If you saw a child crossing the road in front of you, would you drive into their path? Surely everyone would say “No!” Yet these drivers said, “Yes” and the world who watched said, “Rightly So.”
I don’t suggest the woman should be acquitted of blame. But neither do I think her actions are as indefensible as those of these bull-headed, mindless drivers. Who hasn’t made a split-second decision about something and realised too late that they were wrong? What parent or carer hasn’t done something they realise later, or even at the time, is unwise or unsafe? I think you’re lying if you say you haven’t. Thankfully, most of the time these errors are caught quickly and the consequences small. If you’re lucky you learn an important lesson and thank your assorted gods the results weren’t deadly. Guaranteed that’s how this woman felt; ashamed, shocked, scared, grateful… That split-second decision to rush across the road quickly turned bad and soon was out of her control. She should have made a better decision, no doubt, but I have some empathy.
Just because the lights say Go you don’t have to do so if it’s unsafe – dummy!
For the drivers who decided they couldn’t wait a few seconds for the child to finish crossing, however, I offer no such understanding. The decision to drive forward and force a small child to dodge around moving traffic is a measured one, compared to that of the woman who misjudged how long it would take to cross the road. It boggles my mind that any sane person could do anything other than stay put, the default decision surely, while a child runs in front of your car.
I can only assume the thinking of these drivers, and seemingly most of the world, is that if you have a right to do something that right supersedes all logic, sense, and the conflicting rights of others. This child has a right to life, pedestrians always have the default right of way, logic tells you he will be on the other side of the road and out of your way soon, and sense says that you can help keep him safe by pausing before you drive forward. But Your right is to drive on when the light turns green so F$%k it, off you go. WTF?!
I could probably rant about this a lot more so let me stop now before I bore you. But please, let me just say this,
If you see a child in the road, who cares whose fault it is that he is there, and who cares if you want to drive forward, please don’t run him over!