Belfast Telegraph

Wild and dangerous driving, rudeness, arrogance and lunacy... welcome back to the madness of the school run

By Lindy McDowell

The first week in September. And we all know what that means, don't we? Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. The school run races start here. And it's every driver for themselves when the classroom bell tolls.

This week the PSNI issued some back-to-school guidance on road safety to coincide with the start of a new term. All of it reasonable, stating-the-obvious stuff about the likelihood of increased traffic on the roads and needing to leave more time.

Make sure your kids wear hi-vis and assure them that missing the bus is better than bolting across the road to catch it when late. (I can see how some pupils might be tempted to take advantage there, mind you.) As the police spokesman put it: "Everyone needs to take personal responsibility for road safety."


Try telling that to the woman who, without any warning or indeed signal, scorched out of a school gate right in front of me, the other day, with about a coat of car paint to spare. Needless to say there was one of those child on board warnings on the back windscreen.

That's okay love. I'll concentrate on ensuring your child's safety while you feel free to take my front bumper with you.

For some reason the school run seems to bring out the worst in some drivers. And loathe as I am to single out members of the sisterhood, prominent among them are those yummy mummy types who seem to think that being a bit late for their afternoon nail bar appointment provides exemption from Give Way signs.

It's a mix of rudeness, arrogance and lunacy. People who presumably love their small children very much, will take the wildest risks in order to screech in closer to the school gates, park dangerously, let their children disembark into traffic, and then attempt to zoom off without any regard whatsoever for other road users.

It's not so much the herd mentality as the stampede mentality. We used to talk about road hogs. While the description seems to have fallen out of fashion, the hog behaviour hasn't.

These days we call it road rage. A reflection that we've now moved up a notch from being just plain ignorant hogs to being VERY ANGRY ignorant hogs. A light-flashing, horn-beeping, gesticulating, effing and blinding generation of road users. And, hands up, I've been guilty of the odd bit of steering-wheel thumping myself. It happens.

TV presenter Jeremy Vine recently garnered considerable sympathy on social media when he tweeted helmet-cam footage of a road rage incident where a lady driving behind him, in Kensington, had taken umbrage at his cycling in the middle of the road.

There were cars parked either side. He was doing the sensible thing, steering clear of suddenly opening car doors.

The woman revved, beeped furiously at him, shook her fist, cursed (bad) and at one point made a gun sign with her hand (very bad.) Disgraceful behaviour, of course.

And yet...

Maybe if Vine had just stopped and pulled in to let her pass, given how obviously impatient she was? Not because he was in the wrong (he wasn't) but because sometimes giving way and common sense are the better part of road safety.

Where the school run is concerned, common sense particularly in these first few weeks of term, goes right out the car window. And unforgivably, in this instance, it's children's safety that is primarily being put at risk.

Meanwhile statistics show that the morning commute for workers is extended by an average of half an hour once the schools start back.

Various solutions have been proposed. Staggered starting and finishing times for schools. But how does that work for working parents? And children walking to school in the dark winter months doesn't seem such a great idea either.

We're stuck with it, it seems. Back to school. Back to school run madness.

All these period dramas can be hard to bare

The current hysteria re: historical costume drama and leading men removing their shirts in the same is a bit OTT, is it not? In Poldark, Aidan whathisname took his shirt off to do a bit of scything a couple of years ago and TV reviewers still can’t get over it. Isn’t this all a bit demeaning to the fellas? Objectifying them, or something?

Now there’s Victoria. Her Albert  (Tom Hughes) doubtless will also be bare-chested onscreen very, very soon. You can bet your shirt on it.

The actor, incidentally, looks nothing like your man on the Albert Clock.

Doggone it, spiders are back for autumn

I’m dog-sitting this week. She’s been great company, although our ability to communicate is still at an early stage.

Every so often she comes up to me, pawing at me, whining a little, trying to convey what she wants with her eyes in a “Lassie’s trying to tell us something” sort of way.

So far I’ve failed her.

Although the other night when she suddenly went bonkers in the corner of the kitchen I sussed right away what was up.

Yup. They’re back. The Giant Spiders of Autumn.

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