domenica 30 settembre 2007

Safety First

Last night, Luca and I were on our way home from the bar when his mum called to say that his dad had been knocked off his motorbike and it didn’t seem serious but they were waiting for the ambulance to arrive. We took off – almost literally – and sped across the city to find his mum, two friends, and various passers-by crowded around the ambulance, and his dad strapped into a neck brace on a stretcher inside. I’m not good with emergency situations at the best of times and following the ambulance to pronto soccorso was pretty scary, but after a couple of hours waiting outside the hospital, we discovered that he had a simple knee injury and was just a little shocked. Whilst we were waiting, a number of other motorbike accident victims were brought in, each with their worried families in tow. I’m started to have a genuine fear of the traffic here in the city. It seems that everyone has something to say about the general lack of road safety, people’s apparent incapability to follow the rules and the poor lighting and maintenance of the street system. Just the other day, following heavy rain, a hole appeared in the road outside our apartment which was certainly deep enough to throw any motorcyclist doing more than about 50kms an hour off their bike. A passing police patrol car stopped to have a look, and after much shrugging of shoulders they placed a road cone small enough that you would need a microscope to see it next to the hole, and went on their way. Whilst hanging around the Emergency Department at the hospital, Luca picked up a newspaper carrying the headline “Road Safety: new law could increase number of victims”. The article talked about the fact that the government is proposing to decrease the amount of time a new driver has to wait before being allowed to drive cars over a certain number of cylinders – from three years to one. Given the number of accidents that already take place as a result of teenagers driving powerful vehicles at excessive speed, I hate to think of the consequences of providing them with an even earlier opportunity of killing themselves and others….
As Luca’s mum provided her witness statement to the police (needless to say the car which knocked his dad down sped off immediately and nobody on the scene managed to get a look at its number plate), she commented on the fact that, despite being one of the main roads leading into the city centre, with three lanes of constant traffic, it is one of the darkest streets in the city. The policeman’s response was to shrug his shoulders and “I know Signora – my colleague filed a report about this exact problem six months ago following another accident, and nothing’s been done yet”. If the new law allowing new drivers to get behind the wheel of increasingly-powerful vehicles comes into effect, I wonder where the extra insurance premiums will be directed….

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