Blog for weekly ethics column by Jeffrey L. Seglin distributed by Tribune Media. For information about carrying The Right Thing in your print or online publication, contact information is available at http://www.tmsfeatures.com/contact/ or a e-mail a Tribune Media sales representative at email@example.com. Send your ethical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jseglin or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seglin
A reader frequently visits a friend who lives in a
neighborhood that has many children playing in the area, although the friend
has no children herself.
The reader has grown concerned about the number of young
children, most looking to be 4-8 years old, wandering around the neighborhood
"They dart out into the street," my reader
reports, "ride their bikes in the street unsupervised, and play right at
the end of their driveways where it would be very easy for them to get
Complicating matters are the adults who walk their
children and dogs in the street. "There are perfectly good sidewalks on
both sides of the streets throughout the entire neighborhood, and yet they just
don't use them."
"How can you expect a small child to understand the
dangers of playing in the street when their parents make no effort to teach
them?" my reader asks.
All of this came to a head a few weeks ago, when my
reader reports she was driving to see her friend and was going four to five
miles under the posted speed limit. A group of parents who were gathered with
many small children in a neighbor's yard shouted, "Slow down!"
"The comment made me so angry I pulled over,"
she writes. She told them that it's inappropriate to shout things at cars,
especially since she was going slower than the speed limit.
Several adults leaned into the window and told her they
would call the police on her for driving so fast when there were so many
The reader told them she didn't want to argue with them
in front of their children. "Yeah, but you would be just fine hitting one
of them with your car," a neighbor suggested.
"I'd like to just let it go, but they aren't going
to," she says. "They have already purchased those yellow 'Slow: Kids
at play' men and they place them in the street."
She says she is now afraid that they will retaliate when
they see either her or her car. "I don't know what to do."
Parents certainly have a responsibility to supervise
their children to keep them out of harm's way. If children are truly in peril
because of negligent parents, then the parents should be held accountable.
It's not clear that that's the case here. Buying and
placing signs to urge cars to slow down suggest that the parents care about
their children's safety and want to send signals to drivers to take care. That
they walk in the streets with their children might not be optimal, but still,
they are accompanying their kids.
The fear of retaliation may be real, but the evidence
suggests the neighbors only approached the reader's car after she stopped to
confront them about shouting "Slow Down." It's not clear that
shouting this was all that threatening. Positioning plastic yellow men hardly seems
The right thing is certainly for the parents to monitor
their kids, but it's also right for my reader and others driving through any
neighborhoods with a heavy population of children to drive with caution
regardless of the posted speed limit. If someone shouts "Slow down,"
it might be good to consider it a sign of concern rather than a threat.