“Phones to be blocked in a bid to save lives”. You’ve got to be joking!
When I was a kid – admittedly some time ago now – the first and maybe most important rite of passage occurred when you were 3 and a half years old. Your Mum began to teach you the all-important road rules. This fantastic advance heralded that once you turned four, you’d be off to Kindy.
Obviously, there were far fewer cars on the road at that time. But there were cars: most – though not all households – had one. And there was appreciable suburban traffic there in Melbourne.
“Look to the right, look to the left, look to the right again. Then walk quickly across”.
This was a mantra chanted by Mums, sometimes Dads, their trainees and various younger siblings as little people on foot, trikes, scooters and powering pedal cars took to the local suburban streets.
Marshalled by a grown-up and stopping at every corner, round and round we went. Past the Kindy; past the State School and the shop and the houses of Mummy’s friends. And as we did, we also learnt to ‘keep an eye out’ for possible problems.
“You need to stop at the driveway to the Joneses. He has a truck and won’t be able to see you.” Take extra care at that house there. The big boys are a bit wild on their bikes.” And so on.
Part of this routine was to learn the names of all the streets and how to politely greet – and answer the questions of – any adults you met along the way.
Once you were four and an accredited “Kindy kid” the next – and most exciting piece of training on the self-reliance calendar began – you got to go and play with the neighbouring kids- but only those in your own street.
There were two parts to this. You got to cross the road alone – with Mum acting as lookout from the front gate.
But you also had to ‘manage your own time’ – as we’d say today.
So the first thing you did on arrival would be go to the parent of the child/ren you were playing with: tell her what time you had to leave: and ask her to show you on her kitchen wall-clock precisely when that would be.
You were expected to keep an eye on the hands of the clock, let your hostess know when you needed to go and she’d walk out with you to supervise the road crossing. Too easy. Yet, remember, these children were not yet 5.
And it worked.
I cannot recall even one child from my neighbourhood, school or Kindy being hit by a car on the road during those first 10 years of my life!
Today it seems the last vestiges of personal responsibility are being filched.
It was all such simple and effective training that built a fine platform on which to develop a lifelong belief in self-reliance and taking responsibility.
What a far cry from today – a couple of generations later – when the newspaper headline screams “Phones to be blocked in a bid to save lives.”
You read on to discover the appalling announcement that authorities are considering blanking out smartphone screens to stop (adult) pedestrians from walking blithely across roads in front of vehicular traffic.
Pedestrian fatalities in all of the countries plagued by the irresponsible use of mobile phones have risen dramatically.
Recent studies show that a disproportionate number of those deaths (and even more injuries) are due to inattention caused by crossing roads (and railway lines) without looking but while nattering on the phone.
So now humankind is to have its glorious advances dumbed down by this herd of self-absorbed people? It seems that apathy and decayed self-discipline are thwarting man’s most primal instinct – self perseveration.
People appear to have squandered the ability to momentarily switch their attention off their phones to preserve lives – primarily their own. And, governments are backing this horrifying abrogation of responsibility with laws to protect grown adults from themselves?
Surely it’s time to go back to basics and re-teach people the tenets of personal and duty of care responsibility before letting them loose on the streets with phones that are a “licence to kill”.