Saturday, August 25, 2001

Tiny ‘terrorists’ on the roads
Rajdeep Bains

"I’M teaching my 12-year-old to drive," a father visibly puffed up with pride tells a gathering. He is greeted not, as you would expect, with disapproval, but with a mixture of congratulations, envy and even regret on part of the listeners that the they themselves had not done this before he did.

Starting children young is the latest trend in driving. With parents explaining the basics of the car to a child as young as four years old, you wonder at their saneness and may even fear venturing out, given the tiny "terrorists" let loose on the roads.

How did this alarming trend come about? Is it that most people are unaware that they are doing something wrong by letting their child behind the wheel at a tender age? There is, seemingly, a kind of bravado attached to breaking rules. Unfortunately, these very same people do not realise the danger they are putting their loved ones in. The lower age limit of 18 years for driving is there for a purpose.


Illustration by Sandeep Joshi Children below that may not have the necessary control over their impulses to handle the vehicle in case of an emergency. Youthful ebullience can lead to rashness on the roads. Youngsters let loose on the roads cannot be expected to behave responsibly. They would want to take risks, perform daredevil stunts, little realising the danger they are putting themselves and others on the road in. With the calculations being so fine, the chance of someone, somewhere miscalculating is extremely high. These human "josh" machines are dangerous.

In such circumstances parents have no one to blame but themselves. A lot of parents when questioned about why they are allowing their underage children to drive, come up with the response that their children do not listen to them, or are not under their control. It is very difficult to imagine that. Children are like putty; you can mould them into whatever shape you want. It is up to the parents to decide, and that too at an early stage, about what shape they want the child to take. If they want a child to become a responsible adult, they have to first start behaving like one themselves. Respect for the law and rules is learned easiest by emulation. If the parents are jumping red lights with impunity, it will be very difficult for them to teach the child to follow traffic rules. If you teach your youngster to drive, you have only yourself to blame when that same child meets with an accident on the road. For that one irresponsible act of the parent, many lives may be lost.

Parents have to make a child understand the reason why he is not allowed to drive till he reaches the correct age. A simple ‘no,’ without any explanation, will not suffice. It will only fire the child’s appetite for the unrealisable and might lead to dangerous experimentation on the sly. It is important that the law, and all that it stands for, be explained to the child in a language that he can understand.

What is most important is that parents stop treating this growing problem with indifference. With the increasing incidence of young deaths on the roads it is up to the parents to instil correct values in their child so that he/she is better able to understand the importance of living life within limits.