Child on Board…and would probably do a better job of driving

Car free streets. Pic: RachelCreative

Car free streets. Pic: RachelCreative

Forget airbags, seat-belts, speed cameras and crumple zones, the greatest road safety invention of the modern age is without doubt the “Child on Board” sticker displayed proudly on the back windscreen.

It is the clearest indication you could ever need that the person in front displaying the sticker is unlikely to be paying too much attention to the road or anyone around them.

Drop your speed, remain extra vigilant and in an ideal world turn off at the next available junction and find an alternative route – you know it makes sense.

Make no mistake, I love driving. I like getting behind the wheel and heading out along the open road – abroad, obviously, as there aren’t too many traffic-free routes left in this country.

Even in some of Lichfield’s “traffic-free” side streets and alleys, it is often rare to catch this sort of car-less view.

And as a born-again cyclist and a regular foot commuter through Lichfield’s rat routes and school run congested roads, I’m beginning to think we have some of the worst drivers in the UK in our midst.

Picture the scene: Beacon Street, mid-week, 8.30am and as the roads are busy you decide the sensible option is to use the light-controlled crossing near the cathedral.

As you wait, a very large 4×4 comes to an abrupt halt on the white zig-zag lines by the crossing, completely blocking the already congested road. A small child is deposited onto the pavement and as the lights turn from amber to red, the large 4×4 roars off . This causes both the foot commuter waiting to cross and the precious cargo the driver had just released from the cavernous vehicle to take a step back onto the pavement before safely walking to the other side.

The 4×4 is not seen for dust as it accelerates away (until 8.30am the next morning when a similar scenario is played out again).

The curse of the school-run mum has once again hit Lichfield’s historic streets.

There are many other examples – the school run mum (proudly displaying a Child on Board sticker) who ignored the 20mph limit along Wheel Lane to overtake a car she felt was travelling too slowly is another particular favourite.

And yet it is unfair to single out the menacing mums. Lichfield’s reputation for bad drivers encompasses just about every person who gets behind the wheel:

  • There’s the pensioners who forget the basic rules of the road when approaching the island on Beacon Street near Morrison’s and decide to put their foot down on the accelerator, rather than the brake.
  • Or the 20-something speed freaks who seem to think the Bowling Green is in the centre of a hitherto unknown Lichfield motorway network.
  • Not forgetting the middle-aged professionals negotiating the many junctions of Lego Town (sorry, Darwin Park) – they ticked the option list for cruise control, air-con and electric sunroof for their executive saloon, but they were clearly factory fitted at the expense of indicators (but, sadly, not a horn).
  • And the bus drivers who complain about speed bumps in that mythical land known as “north Lichfield” but never manage to stay under the limit causing their passengers to bounce around in frankly unnatural ways.

Taking to the streets of Lichfield can be a hazardous experience, which is one of the main reasons I choose to take an early morning bike ride around the cathedral city. It is a great way to start the day, but it is also the safest time to ride a bike through ye olde streets as most motorists are still safely parked up at home.

But even at 6.30am in the morning you aren’t immune from the worst that Lichfield’s motorists can offer.

Of course, Lichfield really doesn’t have the worst motorists in the UK. It just feels like that because so many of us drivers are concentrated in such a relatively small area.

We’re a nation of bad, inconsiderate, arrogant, ignorant drivers – as this test is designed to show.

We seem to lose what little common sense we have when we get behind the wheel.

Apart from me, obviously, I’m a great driver.

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Group Editor for a media and publishing company - laidback, with a sunny disposition and a belief that everyone is fantastic and there's nothing wrong with modern life at all. A Welsh exile - tidy darts.

11 Comments

  1. Sammy J

    5th March, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Applause all round for a great debut post. Chelsea Tractors are one of the biggest wrongs of this society. Quite why some Mutton-dressed-as-lamb mum needs an ‘off-roader’ to drive between home, school and the tanning salon is beyond me.

  2. Mrs Woffington

    5th March, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Having almost just got knocked over while crossing the road outside Lichfield City station, I sympathise.

  3. Steve

    5th March, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    great article.

    I hate those Child on Board signs. What are they supposed to prove? I’m fertile? Please don’t crash into me because I’m a parent and have more value than you do? I’m too busy yelling at the kids/being yelled at by the kids to concentrate on driving properly? Will someone give me an answer please!!?

    There are some good things being done, like walking buses for the school kids.

    I would love to see more of them…

  4. Jayne Howarth

    5th March, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    It’s the same scene the country over – parents (let’s not just target the mothers. Seeing as I am one) wilfully disregard the rules of the road while depositing their previous little bunnies at school.

    The times I’ve witnessed double parking (in a narrow street where my children’s school is – not Lichfield, but close enough for me to care), parking on zigzag lines and yellow lines that have been painted to stop dangerous parking and precariously balancing 4×4 on blind corners beggars belief.

    OK, so I have to take my children to school by car three days out of five because I have to go straight to work, but I certainly don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as these slummy mummies and dappy daddies who think it’s fine to block people’s driveways.

    I at least make my precious little bunny wunnies walk round the corner (I know! Incredible, isn’t it?) to reach the school gates.

    These ignorant drivers place many people at risk with their appalling driving and parking habits.

    But why do they drive? The supreme irony is that it’s probably nothing to do with distance between door and school – more because the roads en route is full of dangerous drivers.

    Go, as they say over the other side of the pond, figure.

  5. GrovesMedia

    6th March, 2009 at 7:24 am

    I should have also pointed out that some of my closest friends (and family) are school run mums, but aren’t very menacing at all – that includes you Jayne!
    But, as I’m a journalist by trade, I prefer to make sweeping generalisations.

  6. Pingback: Child on Board…and would probably do a better job of driving « Groves Media

  7. Mikki

    6th March, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    … and speaking as someone who commutes 120 miles each day please can we introduce the death penalty for people (and it is usually women) who drive in the middle lane even though the inside lane is deserted, thereby creating a queue of cars trying to get past.

    And for people who speed up once they realise that someone is overtaking them.

    Oh OK – maybe that IS a bit harsh. Maybe just a flogging, if it’s a first time offence.

  8. GrovesMedia

    6th March, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Mikki: Motorway ranting could form a whole new post of its own.

    Funnily enough, I experienced the problem of an overtakee deciding to speed up as I went by whilst on my bike last weekend.

    People are strange.

  9. Ian

    6th March, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Those “Child on Board” signs were originally to let Emergency Services know that there was a child in the vehicle should they need to cut people free from a crash etc. Or so I’ve been lead to believe…

    My favourite bit of Lichfield driving was at the cross roads of Birmingham Road and Rotten Row. A women (it was a woman, I’m not just being sexist) turning right from RR onto Church Street went through the green light on RR then stopped in the middle of the junction at the red light on CS. She didn’t pull away until this one went green too. Sadly for me, I was in the car directly behind her.

    Wonderful skills.

  10. Jayne Howarth

    6th March, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I remember my mother in law buying those “baby on board” stickers for my car when my my first enfant was born. I was so embarrassed to put it in my car, but did it to make her feel happy.
    I understood the original intent, but I felt it was a badge that was trumpeting “I’m fecund!”
    I now place them mentally in the same place that the sticker “Pass horses slowly” lives. How else could you ….. no, that’s being rude

  11. happy bunny

    7th May, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I agree with Steve…. oh my god, I’m a child, that means I’m fantastically important. Not only that, but parents think that just because they have offspring and love them, that everyone else must also feel the same ways My husband and I always make fun of those signs.

    ”I’m a child, that means I’m the world, and my mummy, and daddy, and everyone loves me, so that means commuters and everyone else who sees our car should love me too, because I’m a child!”