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N Touch
Monday 20 November 2017
Editorial

Heartless

A cold, callous, heartless act. That’s the only way to describe the conduct of a driver who crashes into pedestrians and drives away, leaving them to die on the roadside.

We all go through life assuming there will be a tomorrow. But sometimes, things happen in life that thwarts that. Tragic things. One minute, nine-year-old Brandon Roopnarine and his five-year-old brother Darrion had Christmas to look forward to. The next minute, all their plans were in tatters. Their parents, Khemchan Roopnarine, 38, and 36-year-old Patricia Ali were dead after a hit-and-run along the Penal Rock Road. Roopnarine was supposed to start a new job on Monday.

We can ask many questions as to how and why this tragedy happened. But one thing is clear: the driver of the white hatchback Tiida vehicle which is believed to have plowed into the parents failed to stop to render assistance. That driver did not consider the possibility that medical attention could have made a difference. Very often life and death is a matter of minutes. Could the driver have assisted in any way?

The case is now within the remit of the relevant law enforcement officials. But a question has been raised over the role of a lack of proper street lighting in the area. If it is true that the street lights have remained non-functioning for months despite requests for them to be repaired, this is a reminder of the importance of even the most basic of local government services. It may well be that poor lighting played a part in the outcome.

Equally, the nature of the road was probably also a factor. The lack of a pavement is an indicator that the road was not designed to be pedestrian-friendly, even if pedestrians frequent it. Was it safe for anyone to be walking along the road at night or at any other time? Was the curvature of the road a factor? What other recourse is there for villagers who depend on the road network to travel short distances?

While these are all relevant questions, it is the role of the driver of the vehicle which calls for the greatest attention. Was the driver driving responsibly? Can there be any excuse for that driver’s failure to stop and help, as the two crying children looked upon their parents’ bodies in the dark?

This tragedy is a reminder of the attitudes that are too prevalent among our population. It is true that pedestrians sometimes have poor habits. Often, they cross at dangerous points, neglect to use facilities provided them, have earplugs in, or are busy texting on their phones (so dangerous a problem is the latter that texting while at a crosswalk was recently banned in Honolulu).

But equally, drivers speed, drive while inebriated, use their phones or drive while sleepy. These reflect a neglect to understand the responsibility they have to fellow drivers and to pedestrians. That responsibility includes how they act when things go badly wrong. It does not end simply because they speed away from the scene in panic.

For the year thus far, 98 people have been killed in road traffic accidents. While improvements have been made as the years go by, the number of fatalities is still too high.

We have to encourage drivers and pedestrians to live up to their responsibilities. But in the case of drivers in particular, there is a need for an attitude shift. Too often drivers drive as if they own the road. They may have the right of way in some situations, but their responsibility to their fellow human beings demands that they drive with compassion and sensibility. This starts with the smallest of transactions on the road such as stopping to let pedestrians cross where safely possible, or not blocking a traffic-clogged junction.

Drivers need to work on their attitude. It can be a matter of life and death.

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