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SPECIAL: Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

6/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

(Page 5 of 18)

self-control and the lack of a sense of responsibility.

A non-pathological phenomenon

28. Such excesses may occur in a large number of normal people. Such unbalanced behaviour, which may have serious consequences, nevertheless comes within the scope of psychological normality.

29. Driving brings inclinations to the surface from the unconscious that usually, when we are not on the roads, are "controlled". When driving, however, imbalances emerge and encourage regression to more primitive forms of behaviour. Driving should be considered by the same standards as any other social activity, which presupposes a commitment to mediate between one's own requirements and the limits imposed by the rights of others.

Cars tend to bring out the "primitive" side of human beings, thereby producing rather unpleasant results. We need to take these dynamics into account and react by appealing to the noble tendencies of the human spirit, to a sense of responsibility and self-control, in order to prevent manifestations of the psychological regression that is often connected to driving a means of transport.

IV. Moral aspects of driving

Driving means coexisting

30. Coexistence is a fundamental aspect of human beings and roads should therefore be more human. Motorists are never alone when they are driving, even when no one is sitting beside them. Driving a vehicle is basically a way of relating with and getting closer to other people, and of integrating within a community of people. This capacity for coexistence, of entering into relations with others, presupposes certain specific qualities in a driver: namely self-mastery, prudence, courtesy, a fitting spirit of service and knowledge of the Highway Code. Selfless assistance should also be provided to those who need it, by giving an example of charity and hospitality.

Driving means controlling oneself

31. A person's behaviour is characterised by the capacity to control and master oneself, and not be carried away by impulses. The responsibility for cultivating this capacity for self-control and mastery is important, both in terms of a driver's psychology and the serious damage that may be caused to the life and wellbeing of persons and goods in case of accident.

Ethical aspects

32. In its evolution as a social factor, driving behaviour has sometimes developed on the fringes of ethical regulations, thereby -- we note -- generating a sharp contrast between the constant state of progress of transport and the continual and chaotic increase in road traffic, which has negative consequences for drivers and pedestrians.

33. In order to lay the foundations for ethical principles that should govern all aspects of road users' "professionalism", consideration must above all be given to the dangers to persons and goods deriving from road traffic. Such dangers exist for drivers and their passengers, as well as for drivers of other vehicles. Failure to comply with basic ethical rules prevents road users from enjoying their own personal rights and also puts their property at risk.

34. The duty to protect goods may be compromised not only by careless driving, but also by not maintaining a vehicle or means of transport in safe mechanical order, by neglecting periodic technical check-ups. The duty to have vehicles serviced should be respected.

35. There are also cases of driving when physically or mentally incapacitated, under the influence of alcohol and other stimulants or drugs, or in a state of exhaustion or somnolence. Danger also derives from citycars, which are driven by youngsters and adults who do not have driving licences, and the reckless use of motorbikes and motorcycles.

36. Taking all this into account, public authorities lay down a series of criminal laws in order to safeguard rights and prevent damage caused by accidents. Unfortunately, in practice, the obligatory nature of such regulations goes unnoticed. All too easily, drivers are barely aware or even ignorant of this fact, precisely because these regulations come within the scope of criminal law, thus relating to events that are deemed extraordinary rather than ordinary. This more easily puts drivers in a position of acting against the law, in the hope of not being apprehended by the authorities responsible for enforcement.

37. It is obvious in this respect that education in favour of a culture of life, in defence of the "thou shalt not kill" commandment, is increasingly necessary. Likewise, the following initiatives are highly beneficial: the various road safety campaigns; improvement of public transport; road routes that are designed to be safe; adequate road signs and paving; elimination of unmanned level crossing; and creation of a public sense of responsibility via specific associations and the collaboration of road service personnel with road ...

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