Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Grumbling about the youth of today 2: safety

by DoDo Fri May 9th, 2008 at 08:20:26 AM EST

Disregard of.

This diary isn't even intended as funny. It is about deadly accidents.

On my railway, in recent years, there has been an upswing in accidents involving young people that resulted from the utter disregard of basic safety rules. While even with the upswing, we are speaking of the behaviour of a microscopic subset of the total youth population, thus the outer end of a spectrum, there is still some underlying development here.

At the time I was in my last year at the highschool, there was a much-reported case of a girl who climbed a railway freight car out of dare, and got struck by high voltage from the catenary. Five years earlier, a railwayman tossed off a drunken college student from a car roof just in time, but was struck himself. There were one or two other cases in the nineties.

However, from 2002, there have been 11 cases of such daredevils struck by high voltage from the catenary, eight of them climbing on car roofs and three climbing on the outside of footbridges. They were of ages between 9 and 22.

Another type of accident is new. Girl gets off the train, crosses the tracks long at a narrow angle rather than perpendicular, without ever looking around. So she doesn't see the incoming freight train from behind her – nor does she hear it, or even the final emergency honking by the locomotive driver: she has headphones on, with loud music. (One of these headphone accidents happened in my hometown 2–3 years ago.)

The for me most shocking foolish behaviour accident (and skip this part if you're sensitive!) started in the station of my hometown about a year ago. Two girls, who apparently ignored the loudspeakers, boarded an empty train making a service stop en route to the final station on the line. When they noticed their mistake, instead of waiting for the train to reach its destination and taking the train in the other direction, or pulling the emergency brake, they decided to jump.

The trains do around 100 km/h on that section. But, instead of jumping onto the grass on the outer side of the track, they decided to jump on the other side, onto the track of the opposite direction. And that not from a door opened with the emergency opener, but a window (e.g. even higher).

They jumped, fell on the tracks, were severely hurt. The eyewitness was the driver of the express train oncoming from the opposite direction and rolling over them.

:: :: :: :: ::

I have no scientific study for a well-founded answer as to what could be behind this increase of such accidents. But I venture a guess that children became somewhat more sheltered, and some parents pay less attention to hammer basic safety rules into them at the earliest age.

At any rate, my company reacted to the latest case of a 16-year-old being struck after climbing on a freight car roof (on 23 March; the boy wanted to view a car race, he survived but with 2/3 of his skin burnt) by issuing a plea to educators (both parents and teachers) and information material sent to all major media.

:: :: :: :: ::

Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.

In fact, I wanted to diarise this from before my company's plea in the media.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 08:22:45 AM EST
Tough question, sad trend. A well-established one. Your company seems to have made a pretty compassionate choice in their reaction.
I have wondered about this too, and I think there is a connection with self-esteem and social mobility, feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness. I think the current fashion for multiple punctures of the body, Goth as death fashion, all tie in with treating yourself badly--because you feel badly about yourself.

Jerry Farber wrote a book called "The Student as Nigger" in which he pointed out that a system that taught racism on the concealed, implied level victimized the white student as well as the black,---because that white student became a bigot as a function of concealed values he or she was not well equipped to spot, and therefore resist even if he was not before. I oversimplify of course- good little book, far better than my tiny paraphrase.

Imagine you live in a place where economic divisions are growing rapidly in such a way that the majority of young people will never make as much money or have the status level of their parents. Imagine that you are growing up at a time when your parents are, far from overprotecting you, --just flat absent,-- working most of your life. Imagine that you are living in a warming world, in which there is a trash dump, a giant plastic "gyre" 6,000 miles wide out where the pure pacific ocean currents used to flow, where-------

your parents can't seem to get off their asses to  fix ANYTHING-

Anyone we know?    

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 09:12:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should have added:

The most frequent foolish behaviour accident is one hitting all ages, practically since railways exist, and perhaps with a decreasing trend: those resulting from jumping on/off running trains. What's more, at least in the developed world, it may cease completely, though not because of 100% of people wisening up, but the spread of automatic doors.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 11:56:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that kids do need to develop a sense of personal safety from their personal lives.

 I look back on some of the antics of my youth where, quite frankly, situations could have turned out otherwise and I'd not be here. Yet each one was a learning experience and I didn't do that or even that class of thing again. I wonder if sometimes we live in a world where kids are wrapped in cotton wool to the extent that they never develop the capacity to hear the voice in their head that says "don't, this is stupid".

The biggest carnage comes from cars. Kids as drivers never seem to realise that they are in control of a deadly weapon, one just a likely to kill them as anyone else. Too many are taught the basics of vehicle control, but are left to fend for themselves in traffic and we hope they'll work it out along the way. Some do, but many don't or become so fixated on the technical control thing that they are indifferent to what havoc their presence wreaks.

In Bulgaria there is a habit of putting up death notices on posters with pictures around town. It is hearbreaking to realise that most of them are either over 50 or between 18 - 25, almost all of the latter are from car crashes.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 09:37:54 AM EST
You see those kind of markers all over in France too-but without the personal details, just the reminder that someone(s) died here on the highway. A salutory effect? Probably. And we were indeed talking about safety with dodo.
"Youthful indestructibility" is the eternal cliche'. But kids with a bright future --who KNOW they have a future- seem to have an internal alarm--a warning that says,
"Don't wanna miss all that good stuff,-- better cool it"

kids who don't believe in their future may not care as much, or have that warning.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 11:27:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But kids with a bright future --who KNOW they have a future- seem to have an internal alarm--a warning that says,
"Don't wanna miss all that good stuff,-- better cool it"
Transport for London has a very interesting campaign about road safety called don't die before you've lived.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 6th, 2008 at 06:01:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]