The other afternoon, Abigail and I were going to the park and at the end of the road near our house, there were a group of children playing on the road. They were completely oblivious and didn’t get out of the way until the car was almost right up to them. (I was going plenty slow so I didn’t hit them.) As they took their time getting out of the way I made some rude comments about it being a road, for cars, and how they shouldn’t be there.
Abigail said, “They don’t care.”
And I said, “Well, their parents should!”
“That’s what I mean,” she said. “Their parents don’t care if they play on the road.”
I’ve had this anecdote related to me a couple of times. My dad was a police officer. Apparently if he ever pulled over families in cars and the children weren’t wearing seat belts, instead of just telling the adults off and fining them, he took a somewhat different approach, which was probably quite effective but also probably not very officially approved of.
It would begin with an enquiry to the family about whether or not these parents loved their children. Invariably they confirmed that of course they loved their children, only for him to then challenge the logic of parents who claim to love their children but in fact do not care enough to take the simple measure of making sure they wear their seatbelts so as to reduce the risk to them in case of an accident.
It’s not really an argument that you can come up with a good response to; and much more effective than simply issuing a fine is knowing that every time in the future that you allow your kids to go without a seatbelt, they are going to be thinking about the day that a police man – a trustworthy authority figure – told them that you didn’t love them enough to do something for them that could be the difference between life and death.
Perhaps those kids playing on the road just need a police person to come and ask their parents why they want their children to be hit by a car. Because surely if they didn’t want that to happen, they wouldn’t allow their children to use the road as a recreational facility.