Category Archives: Serious things in Italy which can kill you…

A more serious look at more serious issues of the day

Serious Things That Can Kill You in Italy: The Pedestrian Crossing

Italy. A country where children come first……Or so we are told.

A country where approximately 15% of all deaths of children under the age of 13 is caused by road traffic accidents.

50% of those children are travelling either without seatbelts or, for the younger ones, not in carseats, but in the arms of someone who purports to love them.

I have yet to see a school bus (provided by the local town council, or private) with seatbelts. Indeed, the schoolbus which serves my daughter’s elementary school is overcrowded to the point of it looking like something we see on hilarious travelogues from the Indian sub-continent. On what looks like a 20-25 seater, there are at least 40 children. Standing, hanging out of the windows, pushing and shoving.

Last weekend the news headlines on Sunday were full of “yet another” drunken illegal immigrant driver destroying a family in a head-on crash. The parents survived. The two year old did not. The news broadcast didn’t say (well, it wouldn’t, would it, not when there was the juicy immigrant aspect to be covered) where the dead child had been sitting. Given the logistics that this was a head on crash and only the child died, I think we can assume that she wasn’t in her carseat in the back.

When I was heavily pregnant and on my way to buy my unborn daughter’s carseat, my mother-in-law told me that the English are cold, that we don’t want to hold our children even when they are babies. Angels protect babies, don’t you know? Shame no-one tells the angels what they are supposed to be doing every time a child dies because its parents were ignorant. Or lazy. Or “but we are only driving through town”.

My brother-in-law was given a fine by the local police. He was driving, with his 6 year old in the passenger seat with no belt, and his 2 year old on his knee. I was glad he was fined.  I laughed.

When me and my newborn were discharged from hospital, we were the only people being discharged that morning who had a carseat. And they looked at us like we were aliens.

Fast forward and I had a job and a half to even find a shop in my town of 60,000 inhabitants which even sold stage 2 carseats.

I have known families bereft after losing a loved one in a road accident still not getting it. Still riding round on mopeds with no helmet, still taking small children in the front seat with no belt, and still not dreaming of ever buying a carseat. These are people not to be pitied. These are people who are so obtuse that despite losing someone dear, they haven’t learned a damn thing.

Studies show that over the last 10 years, Europe-wide, road safety has improved overall. Fewer people in general are dying on our roads. That figure is generally higher for children as parents do start to take more active responsibility for their charges. Good news everywhere………except……guess where?

Sadly, Italy is developing in the opposite direction

compared to the rest of the EU. The

road mortality of children aged up to 14 is

improving at a lower pace than that for the

rest of the population. We need to reach

higher levels of child restraint use and, to

achieve that, we need to increase awareness

of parents. Secondly we need to generally

reduce driving speeds in urban areas where

pedestrians are particularly at risk. The introduction

of a mandatory practical training

test for moped drivers would also help improving

their safety.

Umberto Guidoni, Fondazione ANIA.

Of course it isn’t just kids in cars who are at risk.

Pedestrian crossings? Yes, they exist. No, I wouldn’t use them. Probably the most dangerous bit of a road to cross at. You think you’re OK, that you’re going to get over there in one peace, while the oncoming driver doesn’t give a shit.

When my daughter was about 15 months old her pushchair was caught by a car, on a pedestrian crossing. I screamed and shouted and hurled abuse about ringing the police, and made a great show of writing down their number plate. The couple leapt out of the car and tried to foist banknotes onto me.

A couple of years back, my daughter and I were crossing the road near our local supermarket. Again, on the crossing. An elderly woman with an (obviously) unsecured child in the front seat caught me. Luckily she was going slow because she was looking for a parking place. I hurled abuse again and she burst into tears begging me not to “denounce” her to the police because she had her grandchild in the car. The irony.

I didn’t contact the police about either of these incidents. You want to know why? Because it would have been a complete waste of my time. Police cars don’t stop for pedestrians on crossings, policeman’s wives don’t fasten their kids in.

At the end of the road upon which my daughter’s elementary school stands, there are 2 “traffic police” with their little lollipop signs. Quite what they are there to do is anyone’s guess. The idea (I presume) is that they stop cars going down the road fast when the children are coming out and crossing. Thing is, the mothers themselves park outside the school and then as soon as Junior is in (front seat, no belt) they hit that gas and roar off in the opposite direction of man-with-lollipop, ploughing straight through any children who might still be in the road. Myself and another group of mothers from our class have come to form a human barrier in the middle of the road until all our children are out and safe and Mrs Enormous Red Car just has to sit and wait, or run us over. The lollipop guys have no idea this is what we are having to do, day in day out.

As ever, in a country where laws are seemingly there to be flouted, often by those whose very job is to implement them, what chance do our children have?