Homicide by ignorance

Louise Bostic

We had a scare this week. A four-wheeler driven by preteens and carrying at least three besides the driver zipped into the street only yards in front of us. They never saw us coming.

Fortunately, we live in the area and are extremely careful about driving slowly, below the allowed limit. Pets tend to get out of their yards from time to time and one must be careful and alert, but children never play in the busy streets.

This new phenomena is very concerning, adults letting children drive ATV’s on streets, known for the high amount of traffic, without supervision.

Children have the added distraction of friends on board, encouragement to drive fast and ignore caution.

Ours is a moderately affluent neighborhood and heads of families here are mostly educated adults. It is difficult to understand the mentality of parents who allow such absurd and dangerous actions.

Actually, by city rules these vehicles are not encouraged to drive on our streets and letting children operate them unsupervised is so absurd I cannot rationally address that issue.

If a driver happened past as one of these children darted out, the tragedy would quickly be attributed to the driver and distraught parents would not likely face their own guilt in the circumstance.

Tragedy is the keyword when children are hurt and an innocent driver is marred for life.

The residents of the University area should put a stop to this foolishness before lives are lost or ruined.

An obvious alternative, there are acres of properties in our rural areas for the four wheelers to be used for recreation.

When I worked at Global Wildlife a quarter of a century ago, we used those vehicles to inspect the vast area for new baby animals hidden in the grass and to drive to the remote areas which needed our attention. We used them to herd the giraffes to shelter every evening.

It was great fun and after closing when all the real work was done there were times of foolishness. In a place where neither animals nor we ourselves could be seriously hurt we spun through mud and “flew” over dunes. I understand first hand the exuberance of wind in face and reckless racing about with friends aboard, but our city streets are without question inappropriate locations for this kind of activity.

We should not have to ask our over-worked police to add one more bit of absurd behavior to the list of actions they must regulate.

Parents must take responsibility, get rid of those hazardous machines or move them to an appropriate rural property where family and friends can enjoy them without involving unsuspecting drivers.

University addition is not the only residential area where these vehicles are being used as toys for adolescents, teens, and irresponsible adults. I work daily in another part of our town and almost every day a four-wheeler zips by going much too fast and driven mostly by adult men. I worry that a child may dart in front one day.

On the streets the machines will likely not flip as they could on irregular terrain, but drivers in cars often get too close and the operator of the ATV does not have rear view capacity.

A passing car could easily hit the ATV if it makes a sudden turn to avoid potholes, puddles or small objects on the road. In the automobile operator’s defense, it is difficult to judge proximity due to the size of the ATV and lack of safety features.

We should not have to legislate these under-size vehicles designed for fields and rough terrain which are operating on public streets.

I have observed adults and city employees driving small ATV’s slowly along streets apparently looking for litter or street-related problems. This is appropriate. Most of the time in those cases the vehicle was “off street” and made frequent stops.

The ATV is designed to transport people and materials to those access-limited places where work and maintenance does not require or will not easily accommodate full size vehicles.

Without trying to address the obvious defense or rationale of parents who are possibly trying to survive the adolescent years of their children, we are motorists who are infinitely conscious of the precious lives and well being of these youngsters and I have no doubt that the parents care more.

It is, however, parents and guardians who are allowing this situation. We appeal to them to stop the absurdity before the inevitable happens. Get these recreational four wheelers operated by children off Hammond’s city streets.

Louise Bostic is a Hammond resident.

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