Why speed? A child could get hurt

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IOL speed camera INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS The speed limit in neighbourhoods should be lowered to 40km/h, the writer suggests. File photo: Michael Walker

People who speed in neighbourhoods know how dangerous it is, says Murray Williams.

Cape Town - On March 7, 2012, I wrote about smokers. About how many people who smoke are also loving parents who hope for long happy lives with their children, for example.

And yet they deliberately put chemicals in their bodies which will shorten their lives.

Are they deranged? Apparently not, I wrote.

The experts call it “cognitive dissonance”. It describes the ability to hold two competing views simultaneously. Somehow, in apparent harmony.

You love life? Yes.

You want to live a long, healthy life – want to frolic in the sea with your grandkids? Yes. Of course!

But you continue to smoke? Yes. Seriously?

I thought of this cognitive dissonance this past weekend, while pushing a pram down a street, as I do often.

I walked on the right-hand side of the street, facing oncoming traffic, as there was no paved pavement.

The street is in a quiet-ish neighbourhood. Every now and again, a car would approach.

Sometimes, a driver would see us and they’d slow right down before passing. Sometimes, a driver would not slow, and pass us on the far side of the street.

But, mostly, our presence didn’t seem to affect the drivers at all, and they tore past us.

And this reminded me of cognitive dissonance.

Because, you see, most of the roaring drivers were parents, too – most often, moms in their A-Class Mercs or turbo-diesel SUVs.

So they clearly recognised the sight of a dad pushing a pram down a road. They’d probably done it themselves.

But people – South Africans, in particular, possibly – seem to have a staggering ability to hold competing views simultaneously. Like being caring human beings to their family and friends, and supporting apartheid; an inhumane crime against humanity.

In this case, they’ll push a pram down a road and curse motorists who don’t slow down.

And then they’ll climb into their car, get behind the wheel, and power off down the street – not modifying their behaviour one bit by what they just experienced while walking.

As the dad pushing the pram in the story, one is faced with a choice, while on the street: does one become hyper-aggressive with the driver?

When cars race past my house, when kids are cycling in the street, do I do what Robin Williams (no relation) did in The World According to Garp, and chase after them with a cricket wicket, hurdling hedges like a madman?

And what if I catch them? Yes, the driver had actively endangered my life, the life of the small person in the pram, of the kids in the street.

But in front of me, in that A-Class Merc, would probably be some diminutive mom, with a baby of her own in the back seat of her speeding Mom’s Taxi.

I could hardly pepper spray or tazer her, could I?

Don’t we all agree it’s outrageous to hear on radio, every single morning: “And a pedestrian has been knocked down in X or Y road”? That in many instances, the reason must be one simple word: speed.

The solutions seems simple.

One: lower the speed limit in neighbourhoods to 40km/h.

Two: Raise speeding fines for urban areas to the max.

Three: South African drivers must grow up. People who speed in neighbourhoods know how dangerous it is. Our streets are not for your cars alone.

Just grow up. Just slow down.

And if you don’t – you may well get that cricket wicket flying through your car window, if and when that placid dad loses the plot, and acts irrationally, too.

* Murray Williams’ weekly column Shooting from the Lip appears in the Cape Argus every Friday.

Cape Argus

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