Eric Thompson: Children's road play stems from poor guidance

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The road seems to be the new place to sit down on. Photo / Thinkstock
The road seems to be the new place to sit down on. Photo / Thinkstock

The road seems to be the new place to sit down on. On numerous occasions I've had a go at pushbike riders and their psychotic (loss of contact with reality) belief they have the same rights as motor vehicles when sharing the same stretch of road.

That sort of thinking in the past has, unfortunately, led to a number of pushbike rider deaths over the years. I've tried to enlighten said pushbike riders, that the preferred option for them would be to hold many fund-raising events and go and build a number of velodromes where they can enjoy their pastime in relative safety.

However, my suggestions have fallen on deaf ears. I have also tried to convince pedestrians (and the occasional runner) not to use public roads as a playground.

In a recent chat with readers of this column, I said there is even more rabid madness on our roads, a problem I come across more and more, and that is pedestrians who have abandoned the footpath and now think public highways are the place to strut their stuff.

A tragic case was reported in the Herald: "A 19-year-old woman sat down in the middle of the road before a car struck and killed her south of Auckland this morning."

Her mate was also hit when she went to try and persuade the teenager to get off the road. Imagine how the driver who hit the women must feel? Imagine minding your own business at the wheel and suddenly seeing two people in the middle of the road. By the way, the driver was breath-tested and given a clean bill of health.

While I admire the other woman who tried to save her friend, I would like to have thought someone might have grabbed the dead teenager before she wandered into the middle of the road.

I think I discovered the reason for a whole new generation's lack of understanding about how to deal with the road and the ramifications if you get it wrong.

I was parked at a set of traffic lights last Friday when a bus pulled up in front of me in the next lane. I glanced at the back and saw a huge poster with a child legging it across the road. The text on the poster said: "Slow down around schools."

There was no sign of a pedestrian crossing, an adult monitoring what was going on, or anything.

The inference I got from the poster was it's my problem to look out for ill-disciplined children using the road as a playing field.

It's the parents' and, to a certain extent, the school's duty to teach children how to stay alive near a road.

That is, don't run across a road and especially not from behind a bus. It's no wonder children think it's all a big game when an advertising campaign suggests it's okay to play chicken in the middle of the road.

My daughter would sooner poke her eye out with a sharp stick than run across the road from behind a bus and expect the traffic to miraculously stop.

As parents, my wife and I took the responsibility to teach our daughter the road code and common sense. We did not tell her she could willy-nilly treat dangerous situations as if they were video games where you can hit the reset button when it all goes pear-shaped.

I blame parents for some, not all, of the tragedies that befall our children and teenagers. Life is dangerous and we must accept responsibility for teaching young people that fact.

The road is not a playground and should be treated with the utmost respect. When things go wrong on the blacktop they go horribly wrong and as parents it's your responsibility to teach your children that fact, and not look to blame something, or someone else, for self-imposed misadventure. Actions and reactions, people - it's not rocket science.

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