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SPECIAL: Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

6/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

(Page 4 of 18)

getting to their destination in a great hurry. They see the people who "accompany" them on the road, each of whom has their own life, their own desire to reach a destination and their own problems. They see everyone as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God. This is the attitude that characterises a Christian driver.

20. It has been shown that one of the roots of many problems relating to traffic is spiritual. For believers a solution to these problems may be found in a vision of faith, in the relationship with God, and in a generous option in favour of life, which is also borne out by behaviour that respects the lives of others, and the rules established to protect them, on the road.

"Indeed, the inspired pages of both Testaments could be drawn upon, but especially the Gospels and the Apostolic Letters, an anthology of precepts, which might well form a corpus of moral criteria and even a manual of etiquette and good manners for road use. This would support and strengthen the regulations of the Highway Code and give it inspiration, which the purely negative and preventive statement of its rules cannot have. Until road users are led to consider their responsibilities in this positive and encouraging light, which find their true justification in the superior and indefeasible values of conscience, it will be impossible to achieve desirable moralisation"[7].

III. Human aspects

The particular psychology of drivers

21. A vehicle is a means of transport that may be used in a prudent and ethical way, for "coexistence", solidarity and serving others, or it may also be abused.

Escape from everyday reality and the pleasure of driving

22. When driving a car some people start up the engine to join a race, in order to escape from the troubling pace of everyday life. The pleasure of driving becomes a way of enjoying the freedom and independence that normally we do not have. This also leads to the practice of road sports, cycling, motorcycling and motor racing, in a healthy spirit of competition, even though risks are entailed.

23. Sometimes the prohibitions imposed by road signs may be perceived as restrictions of freedom. Especially when unobserved and unmonitored, some people are tempted to infringe such limitations, which are in fact designed to protect them and other people. Some drivers thus consider the duty to respect certain prudent regulations that reduce traffic risks and dangers as humiliating. Others deem it intolerable -- almost a curtailment of their "rights" -- to be obliged to follow patiently another vehicle that is travelling slowly, because, for example, road signs prohibit overtaking.

24. The fact that a driver's personality is different from a pedestrian's personality should be taken into account. When driving a vehicle, special circumstances may lead us to behave in an unsatisfactory and even barely human manner. Let's now consider the principal psychological factors that influence drivers' behaviour.

The domination instinct

25. The domination instinct, or the feeling of arrogance, impels people to seek power in order to assert themselves[8]. Driving a car provides an easy opportunity to dominate others. Indeed, by identifying themselves with their car, drivers enormously increase their own power. This is expressed through speed and gives rise to the pleasure of driving. This makes drivers wish to experience the thrill of speed, a typical manifestation of their increased power.

The free availability of speed, being able to accelerate at will, setting out to conquer time and space, overtaking, and almost "subjugating" other drivers, turn into sources of satisfaction that derive from domination.

Vanity and personal glorification

26. Cars particularly lend themselves to being used by their owners to show off, and as a means for outshining other people and arousing a feeling of envy. People thus identify themselves with their cars and project assertion of their egos onto them. When we praise our cars we are, in fact, praising ourselves, because they belong to us and, above all, we drive them. Many motorists, including the not so young, boast with great pleasure of records broken and high speeds achieved, and it is easy to see that they cannot stand being considered as bad drivers, even though they may acknowledge that they are.

Unbalanced behaviour and related consequences

Various manifestations

27. Unbalanced behaviour varies according to individuals and circumstances, and may include impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility, or deliberate infringement of the Highway Code. For some drivers, the unbalanced behaviour is expressed in insignificant ways, whilst in others it may produce serious excesses that depend on character, level of education, an incapacity for ...

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