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SPECIAL: Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

6/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

(Page 9 of 18)

your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents.

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

VI. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

VII. Support the families of accident victims.

VIII. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

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

X. Feel responsible towards others.

VI. The Church's mission

Prophecy in a serious and alarming situation

62. Condemnation of serious and unjust situations, such as those caused by traffic, is part of the Church's mission, and therefore realisation of its prophetic mission. The number of accidents in which pedestrians bear a grave responsibility is also worrying. The danger of certain car races, and illegal racing on city streets, which create serious risk, should also be condemned.

63. It is quite common when accidents occur to blame the state of the road surface, a mechanical problem or environmental conditions. However, it should be underlined that the vast majority of car accidents are the result of serious and unwarranted carelessness -- if not downright stupid and arrogant behaviour by drivers or pedestrians -- and are therefore due to the human factor.

Road safety education

64. Faced with such a serious problem, both the Church and the state -- each in their own area of responsibility -- should go beyond condemnation and seek to raise overall public awareness regarding road safety and promote corresponding and appropriate education of drivers, as well as other travellers and pedestrians, with all possible means.

65. In broader terms, it should be borne in mind that three elements are needed to carry out an action well: knowing what is to be done; having the desire to carry it out; and, finally, having sufficiently developed a series of reflexes and habits needed to carry it out precisely, accurately and swiftly. This also applies to road safety education, which should involve intelligence, willingness and habitual behaviour.

66. In this regard, the Church should concern itself with raising awareness and promoting road safety education that takes account of the three elements mentioned: knowing what is to be done, in awareness of the danger, responsibility and obligations deriving from it for drivers and pedestrians; wishing to carry out the action with care and dedication; and, finally, developing sufficient reflexes and habits for precise action that does not entail risk or carelessness.

67. To achieve such ends, in addition to family commitment, the educational potential of parishes, lay associations and ecclesial movements, especially for children and youngsters, should not be neglected.

68. All this means calling attention to and encouraging what might be called "road ethics", which is not different from ethics in general, but is its application.

Target audiences

69. An important matter is determining to whom such road safety education should be addressed, taking into account primarily those who are "actively" concerned. As traffic is an issue relating to the common good, the solution to the problem of training motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians involves a whole series of actors and social organisations, as well as individuals and the family, society in general and public authorities.

70. Individuals have an ethical obligation to respect traffic regulations and, therefore, they should have knowledge, gained from training aimed at deepening their sense of responsibility. The role of the family in road safety education is clear and vital, and is part of the experience that must be conveyed to children for a good general education.

For its part, society has the obligation and the right to deal with this issue, because it concerns the common good. The term society is used in its wider and diversified meaning, as it encompasses, for example, schools, private companies, clubs, institutions and the press. The term society also means public authorities and civic administration, whose intervention in this field, as in any others, should be governed by the principle of subsidiarity[27].

71. Among those "passively" concerned by education, children come first. From a very early age they should be prepared to deal with traffic, an environment where they will spend part of their lives, for two fundamental reasons.

Above all, because teaching children how to move in the midst of traffic means giving them the best means for protecting their own lives. Indeed, many children die on the roads each year, and many others, without losing their lives, are ...

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