THE VALUE OF LIFEBy John Baldwin 5th March 2010
What value does our society here in New Zealand place on your life and what value do our courts?
Mathematically, many millions of dollars. Legally, it would seem very little – on the basis of light sentencing of errant drivers whose mindless and sometimes reckless actions tragically take the lives of other innocent road users.
And where do the courts factor in the grief and anguish of loved ones and the diminished quality of their lives for the rest of their days?
Many I have spoken to want tougher sentencing. Others disagree, asking what good will it do? It won’t bring the hapless victim back after all.
No it won’t. But is it a fair and just outcome when a person in possession of a lethal weapon, in a state of mindlessness, sometimes irresponsible aggression, takes the life of another and loses a year, maybe two of their own liberty in exchange?
Some would say it isn’t a fair go and I am inclined to agree but at the same time ask, “will tougher sentencing result in an improvement of attitude towards each other on our roads? Possibly not.”
Is not the underlying problem our lack of courtesy and consideration for others, both on and off the road? Is this behaviour continuing unabated due to our collective unwillingness as a nation to address the issue at both a local and national level?
Name one campaign that either government or local council has mounted recently, aimed at reducing aggressive driving and promoting a spirit of courtesy and consideration on the road. What are our courts and Police doing to address the issue of poor road user attitude?
I can give you one answer based on first hand experience.
Last November I was riding North along the Main Road pedalling past the Waikanae shops when the driver of a huge earthmoving truck owned by the Pritchard Group decided to overtake. We were both on the inside lane and the outside lane was full. It didn’t matter to him that there was insufficient space to overtake within the lane. My bike & I weighed a mere 80kgs. Driver and truck approximately 10,000.kgs. It didn’t matter to him that I was balancing tenuously on two wheels and he steadily on twenty six. The driver was on a mission and clearly I was of no consequence. With reckless disregard for my life he drove me off the road into the gutter. I kid you not.
Fortunately I fell towards the shops. It could have easily been the other way and I would have been crushed to death. To this day I can clearly recall the horrifying experience of those 7 sets of huge semi trailer wheels rolling past – each set getting closer and closer. That horrific memory will be with me for the rest of my life.
I would like to tell you how sympathetic and apologetic the Pritchard Group were, how they issued a warning to the driver concerned and initiated an employee drive with courtesy and care campaign. I would like to tell you how the Police charged the Pritchard Group with reckless driving and how I related my harrowing experience to a sympathetic judge.
I can’t, because none of this happened….despite a 111 emergency call at the time, a lengthy telephone call to Pritchard Group the following day and filling out a comprehensive NZ Police traffic Incident Report .
I think it’s time something was done about this apathy……how about you?