There was a short piece on Radio 4 the other day about how OFSTED has marked down a load of primary schools (primarily in Wales), not because of failing grades or attendance or teaching ability but because they don’t have prison like fences around them. This desire to keep the children safe is clearly more important than getting a good education. While it’s clearly an over-reaction to things that rarely happen and merely prove that a lot of the world is terribly risk averse, it doesn’t seem to hold true that parents take more care when children are involved.
If you look at any awful news story, if it involves children the fact is stressed because it is somehow worse if it happens to a child than if it happens to an adult. I suppose it’s because as adults we can make our decisions whereas a child can’t. The value of a child’s life, therefore, is higher than someone who can make a decision to get out of the way of, say a speeding car.
And so I wonder at a father I saw yesterday who seems to regard his child’s life as less valuable than his mobile phone.
He was driving what I think was an SUV (I don’t really know what an SUV is but it looked like it should have been one) and he was pulling into the entrance of the gym as I was walking out. He had had to pull in off the road by turning a full 180 degrees around a blind corner masked by trees and a fence. He was turning into a drive which has cars (and vans) driving on it in both directions most of the time. It also had me walking on it.
Fortunately I spotted him as he turned in so I stepped off the road to a spot of relative safety. His phone was stuck fast to the right hand side of his face as his free hand moved the steering wheel completely to the left in order to make the turn. As he drove passed me I noticed, in the backseat behind him and safely ensconced in a child’s seat, his daughter aged about five, happily gurgling away.
How could this chap care so little for the life of his child? He’d gone to the trouble of supplying a safety chair, the child was no doubt buckled in, the car was one of those big chunky things which, presumably are safer than…well, other cars…and yet, he showed complete and utter disregard for the child’s life. If you were to ask him to choose between his child and his phone, one would assume (hope?) he’d choose the child but, clearly her life is not so valuable.
Parents appear to be more concerned about the possibility of their child being the victim of a snatching (something that rarely happens) than being involved in a probably fatal car accident (something that happens regularly). Perhaps it’s because they can control the death or injury of their own child but can’t decide on its fate in the wider world. Or maybe they’re just insensitive. Or just plain stupid.
On average, only 11 children are killed by strangers in the UK every year, a statistic that has not changed since 1970. The evidence overwhelming points to children being killed or harmed by people they know. I guess the incident bears out the statistics then.
(One shocking statistic I just read is that 66% of paedophiles are known to children. That is truly frightening.)
I realise that most people are convinced by reading emotional news stories about child deaths or watching extreme TV news reports about paedophiles lurking behind every corner while ignoring the real problem which is the susceptibility of most people to anything that smacks of sensationalism. You only have to look at the stupidity shown by so many parents regarding the MMR injections who think it’s smarter to leave their children unprotected because the Media told them so.
As for using a mobile phone while driving, in January, a week long police crackdown in the UK netted 8,000 motorists talking/texting/otherwise-engaged-with-their-phone while driving. In 2016 there were around 20 fatalities directly attributed to phoning and driving and most of the dead were not the ones on the phone.
And the majority of mobile communication while driving is unimportant and not necessary. A true waste of life.