Last week we woke up to the tragic news of the death of 18 year old Queens University student Enda Doran. The musically gifted young an was hit by a van while returning to Queen’s Hall Of Residence. It happened less than a mile from where we live and, as the road was closed for investigations, the entire area was gridlocked during rush hour the next morning.
On the school run we were caught in a rare traffic jam on our quiet little park. Unaccustomed to such early morning traffic a neighbour had reversed out of her driveway and got caught with nowhere to go. I was then astonished as she got out of her car to harangue the car preventing her from getting out. That driver in turn was soon out of his car asking what he was supposed to do. Clearly heated by the inconvenience my neighbour stood her ground and therefore prevented cars coming up the park in the other direction. It was an awkward, if entertaining, moment that for me said much about the spiritual malaise that is causing the carnage on our roads. Sadly two more lives were lost on the roads in the following 24 hours.
We have become a very self centred generation with little respect for other people. Our road rage, manifested on the outside or seething beneath the surface on the inside, is like an intense microcosm of such. It is proving to be a dangerous place for such frailties to work themselves out.
We are a generation that loves ourselves and we are very demanding of our own rights. In our little compact boxes, walled in, and no doubt listening to our own soundtrack, we become self obsessed. Our perspective of life narrows and we believe that everybody should move to our tune and we have the right to do what it takes to get us to our destination on time at the cost of everybody else. It is our right. It is all about us.
Our self obsession causes us to have disrespect for others. We lose sight of the fact that driving is not a solo activity. For roads to work most efficiently and safely we need to recognise that driving is a communal thing. For it to be a communal thing we need to show respect for our fellow road users and also show some peripheral vision as to what might be happening around us.
When we sneak out and get stuck across a junction, when we jump a red light, when we attempt a reckless manoeuvre and when we drive faster than the speed limits, we are not considering the safety of our fellow human beings but risking the lives of others for our own punctual gain. It is good to remember the power of the machinery that we do all of this with. We are literally playing out our self indulgence in killing machines.
The carnage has reached a point where I felt it was important to not only pray for those families in mourning but also challenge us as a community of believers in Fitzroy to consider how we live out Jesus command to “love our neighbour as ourselves” in our cars. The apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians to “in humility value others above yourselves”. Back to Jesus and how does “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” look on the roads?
This following of Jesus in our driving should help to mould another culture on our roads. Car travel could be seen as the journeys between important meetings and important acts of service and mission in our places of work, living and Church. We need to see roads as another front line where it is of utmost urgency to live out an alternative way. Our lives might just actually depend upon it… the lives of other too.