Transportation

Thou Shalt Not Tailgate?

By Ben Bull
Published June 20, 2007

When we think of transportation issues in Biblical times, we might picture Jesus bumping into someone with his donkey; or perhaps a Roman soldier squashing a peasants foot with his chariot, as he rides off to war.

Today the Vatican has waded into the car-culture debate with the publication of its "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road".

The guidelines include an intriguing set of 'Ten Commandments for Motorists'. Specifically targeting "itinerant" people - refugees, prostitutes, truck drivers and the homeless - the Commandments come at a time when traffic infractions in Rome and around the world have reached alarming rates.

"(In Rome) Danger derives from city cars, which are driven by youngsters and adults who do not have (full) driving licences, and the reckless use of motorbikes and motorcycles," says Cardinal Renato Martino of the Vatican.

Nothing new there. In the GTA yesterday, the two youngsters who were allegedly responsible for truck driver David Virgoe's death on the weekend, were arraigned in court on 11 charges, ranging from dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death to street racing and committing a common nuisance.

David Virgoe apparently made evasive maneuvers which may have saved other motorists' lives, but cost him his own. He didn't have any life insurance. He is, like most of the victims of our out-of-control car-culture, another innocent man.

It makes you wonder: where will this all end?

A lively discussion at the foot of Grant Rannelli's RTH article "A Lucky Break?" pits the usual "bikes are a nuisance" complainants against the growing chorus of folks who recognize that our car-culture is now spiralling out of control.

A follow up article in the Star highlights the frustrations of road safety campaigners everywhere: "Carmakers should fund campaigns to curb street racing and other forms of reckless driving," suggests Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League.

The Vatican's foray into this issue is a welcome development. Their Commandments are very astute too. What is perhaps more re-assuring though, to those of us who understand the menace that the automobile has now become, is that we may, finally, have God on our side.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 20, 2007 at 15:49:20

I must have missed the "bikes are a nuisance" posts in the Lucky Break discussion.

In any case, this is one time when I too welcome the Vatican's foray into a contemporary issue. As a driver AND a cyclist AND a pedestrian, I especially welcome the 9th 'commandment': On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

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By Robert Virgoe (anonymous) | Posted June 20, 2007 at 22:11:57

David Virgoe is my nephew. We had worked together for many years and he was without a doubt the best driver I have ever encountered, a professional in every sense.
He was also a very special human being, and if you had ever met him you would know what I mean. It does not suprise me that he would sacrifice himself for others, he was a true "White Knight"

We have all heard of the saying "young and reckless" but these young men were racing on a crowded highway, with absolutely no regard for anyone else,including their passengers, and were criminal in their actions and intent. How can these young men, I assume are college students, afford their new fancy cars? I know!..... THE PARENTS=50%(blame)..maybe!! What are they studying? Ignorance101...I bet!

I'm seeing too much of this, every time I am out in my car. What gives them the right to put my life and the lives of my loved ones in jeopardy? Why are there so many crazy people driving cars?

When is it going to STOP! Perhaps with your nephew,or a family member.When are politicians and citizens going to say enough? I won't allow this to continue!

I also believe that the auto makers can/should build cars with engines proportionate to the vehicle. Eliminate the so-called "muscle car" straight-out. The day and age of high-powered automobiles is asinine, as fossil-fuels become scarce so does the reasoning of auto makers who continue to design "gas guzzlers".

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 20, 2007 at 22:22:20

Dear Robert,

Thank you for sharing. David sounds like a wonderful man who acted selflessly but died needlessly at the hands of someone else's reckless behaviour.

I'm deeply sorry for your loss.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted June 21, 2007 at 12:50:24

Robert, I'm also sorry for the loss your family has experienced with David's needless death.

When you say, "I'm seeing too much of this," I know what you mean. I don't commute to work and so often the only driving I do is when I go on long trips on the highway. This summer two of those trips have been to Ottawa, down the long, long 401. Each time I have witnessed extraordinarily reckless, dangerous driving.

It's not unusual on the 401, out of the city, to find traffic moving at average speeds of 130 or even 140 km/h. On long stretches of two-lane highway, where the minimum speed of drivers is 120 km/h, this is not particularly dangerous (although it is fuel-inefficient). When the difference in speed between cars is only 15 or 20 km/h, things happen slowly.

The problem is when people are driving at speeds that are grossly disproportionate to the average of the other people on the road. Outside the city, that means people driving 180 km/h. Inside the city, it means people driving 130 or 140 km/h when everyone else is driving 100 or 110 km/h in heavy traffic conditions.

On all of my long trips, I see individuals rapidly changing lanes from one side of the highway to the other, traveling at speeds much greater than everyone else. I have often seen them forced to make split-second maneuvers when, for example, they are aiming for a rapidly closing gap between a car in their lane and one in the next lane over. Since that seems to be how they like to drive in general, that means they are making many split-second decisions each time they're driving: and its only a matter of time before they screw up, with tragic results.

I think what we need isn't more enforcement with speed traps, but unmarked police vehicles on the highways that target people who are traveling much faster than anyone else, who are driving recklessly, and who are making unsafe lane changes.

These people should be given harsh penalties, including license suspensions. Every person who behaves in this manner is putting other people lives at risk.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted June 25, 2007 at 14:38:01

Thanks much for this one Ben. I especially like:

  1. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

Hmm, I guess the majority of Canadian drivers are sinners then don't you think?

  1. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

which pretty much blows away the "big SUV's are safer" theory, because that is only true in a relative sense, i.e. by squashing the more vulnerable party.

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By gigababy (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2007 at 17:08:35

I created a video to honor David
This site won't let me post the link but
go to google
type
butterflies david virgoe
look for gigababy presents a life buffet of random thought
thanks

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2007 at 19:11:14

Hi Gigababy,

Wonderful video. Here's the link: http://www.gigababy.com/virgoe/david.htm...

Lest we should ever forget that there is someone's loved one - father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter - behind every highway statistic.

Thanks for sending this.

Take care.

Ben

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2007 at 20:16:00

Hi Gigababy,

Wonderful video. Here's the link: http://www.gigababy.com/virgoe/david.htm...

Lest we should ever forget that there is someone's loved one - father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter - behind every highway statistic.

Thanks for sending this.

Take care.

Ben

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