Another avoidable collision. One where a young child was injured seriously. An easily imaginable scenario where a blue-lighted police car, sirens wailing, runs a red and collides with a pedestrian. Horrible.
And for the driver, terrible in that the memory will be forever. The punishment will pass, and it would appear that a punishment is strongly indicated for the lapse, but of course for him the memory will be lifelong.
But what lessons are there for us, the saddened non-participants? Are there any takeaways? Is the 20/20 vision of hindsight useful?
Firstly, it must be said that my heart goes out to the family of the poor lad that was unfortunately knocked over. But as those who are left hear the story, perhaps a thought forms at the back of the mind “could it have been avoided?” Of course, the first answer is, “yes” as it could have been avoided by the driver slowing to an appropriate speed for proceeding through a red light. But the courts and his employer’s disciplinary bodies shall deal with that issue. There is another………….but I need to go back in time.
Back to when my children were very, very young, and the duty of the parent is to teach them how to cross the road. Yes yes yes, as per the Highway Code and all that. But I teach further and deeper. I teach them not to get hit.
Because I was hit when I was a teenager. I was myself skittled by a car, and ended up with a very bruised hip, and gravel rash, but nothing broken except my pride. I learnt one thing – getting hit by a car bloody well hurts. An observer would have said “What the hell is that kid doing playing tennis in the road?” followed by “Why isn’t that driver slowing down much?” followed by “No don’t run that way!” followed by “Oh No!!”
Just wanted you to know the background so you don’t think I’m victim blaming. I’m not (I hope).
Here’s my way of crossing the road at pedestrian crossing/lights/whatever that I both practice and teach my children (a) Wait for the green man (b) When you see the green man, assess whether it is safe to cross or not. Are all the cars stopped or stopping? Have you made eye contact with oncoming drivers? Do they know you are there? Have they seen you? (c) Proceed with caution, watching for errant cyclists, motorcyclists, or fast/illegal/speeding/stolen cars that haven’t stopped for the red (d) Be ready to engage reverse gear. A pedestrian on foot can stop in a millisecond, reverse one metre in less than a second, and get out of harm’s way. Be prepared. Watch out till you reach the safety of the other side.
Here’s my way of dealing with sirens that I both practice and teach my children (a) As soon as you hear a siren, locate it. Instantly start the assessment as to whether you will have to move/change course/stop/reverse or whatever to get out of his way (b) If you are in a car, wind a window down a little so you can properly localise which direction the siren is coming from (c) Again, if you’re in a vehicle, turn down (or off!) the fan and the radio so you can hear. If you know early, you can leave a gap, make a gap, or plan a good place to pull over nice and early so that the emergency vehicle has a free and easy path. It might be a relative of yours that they’re trying to save one day. All road users need to be aware of sirens. What if (hey it’s possible! and it’s happened!), that ten seconds or twenty seconds in front of the police siren is a stolen car driver who doesn’t give two hoots about if he crashes, so focused is he on getting away. If you listen and respond early to the siren every time, you thereby decrease your chances of getting caught out unawares.
Put these two together. I actively teach my young children these things, every time on every crossing and at every siren. Conditioning happens. We become conditioned and we institute these habits almost automatically. What if (and I know this is a big “What If”) that poor lad had have noticed the oncoming speeding police car? What if he’d run in reverse back to his place of safety? What if he’d not assumed that green = safe to cross?
Don’t get me wrong. In this instance the driver has been found wanting (as it is perfectly clear that the emergency vehicle is required to slow for a red light, and only proceed if safe to do so) and will be appropriately punished I trust. But what if instead it was a near miss? Where both the hitter and the hittee were actively using the road in such a way as to not hit, and not get hit?
The child who was hit was not to blame in any way for the collision, as the onus was on the driver to proceed into the red with safety. Patently this did not occur. But……….
Getting hit hurts. Getting hit can kill. Use the road so as not to hit (drivers / cyclists / lorries). Use the road so as not to get hit (everyone).
Don’t hit. Don’t get hit. Simples.