It is pitiful that far too many drivers in our country proudly disobey traffic lights. Some act as though they are smarter than others because they can maneuver through difficult traffic, jammed intersections, or when they believe the red light is on too long. Others believe that it is what freedom is all about. Truthfully, if we are all allowed to exercise what we think are our rights and freedoms, we will have a chaotic society. Some “freedoms” cannot be allowed. One of these is the freedom to run traffic lights. It will cause accidents and even deaths. Hence, we give up some of our “freedoms” to have peace and safety in society.
When you are approaching a red traffic light, what compels you to stop? Is it the color of the light itself or is it a moral or legal decision? The light itself has no power to stop someone. The light simply reminds us that stopping is wise. The light also reminds us that there has to be traffic laws to prevent chaos and even accidents. More importantly, the driver has to internalize and personalize the reason and purpose for traffic laws. The laws must become a part of his psyche, belief system and behavior. When there are individuals who do not believe in obeying the traffic laws or who are selectively disobedient in applying certain laws when driving, we have confusion, accidents, road rage, and sometimes death.
Although there are many obedient drivers on our streets, far too many are disobedient, creating an appearance of a lawless society. It is my view that the disciplined, obedient driving of residents is one of the signs of a civil society. If an automobile collision occurs on a road in a civil society, it is not the presence of the police on the scene of the accidents that controls the drivers and prevents further chaos. It is an internal control system of the drivers, located between the two ears, that store a set of moral values and beliefs, which impacts behavior, sensible choices and rational thought. Too many drivers seem not to have an internal control system or it is not working well. Disciplined drivers have traffic laws stored in their heads and do not need the presence of the symbol of the law or the police officer, to obey the laws. Disciplined drivers police themselves.
Where does this lawless driving start? It does not start on the streets. It starts in the home. It is my view that adults who drive lawlessly have been influenced by a dysfunctional home environment. First, where there is lack of structure in the home—no bed or mealtimes, no television control, etc.—it is more likely that the children will not understand the importance of internal discipline and self-management. Second, when children observe that their parents/significant others do not respect simple laws of the road while driving—speed limits, traffic lights—these same children grow up believing that it is not necessary to obey laws of a country. In fact, they become a law unto themselves. Children keenly observe what happens when there is an accident. They would listen to the lies and deceit to cover up the truth. They learn from a young age that maneuvering (gross inexactitude) to avoid a fine or jail from breaking the law is more important than being obedient to the law. They quickly learn that breaking the law is being “smart”. What makes matters worse is a disobedient driver claiming that he or she has someone to help “get him off the hook”. This may be an influential person in government or even a police officer. This is one example of how the cycle of corruption continues in a country.
What is the use of surveillance cameras, traffic lights, speed limits, pedestrian crossings, road markings, and speed bumps, if very few drivers obey them? I often hear people say that we need more police on our streets to prevent more traffic accidents or to respond to the infringements of traffic laws. It is my view that we do not need more policing by traffic cops. Instead, we need personal policing by every driver on the streets. We need more drivers who have the traffic laws in their heads and are not depending on or not needing the presence of police officers to drive with discipline on the streets.
Unfortunately, lack of self-government is a serious flaw in far too many residents of our county. Self-management, self-discipline and integrity are greatly needed in our country. Unfortunately, these qualities of behavior cannot be bought at a department store. They cannot be picked up at a garage sale at a low cost. They are only available in the school of disciplined family living and can only be stored in the hearts and minds of well-managed, disciplined residents. It is my view that if we can get our parenting act together, we will have less traffic accidents and less breaking of traffic laws. Are the traffic laws in your head?
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to email@example.com or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.