My Car: My Rights and Responsibilities

My Car: My Rights and Responsibilities

September 21, 2018

As many parents know, I often spend some time before the start of the school day standing at the front gate to welcome our students to school. It is time well spent, I believe. As I greet the smiling faces of our students, I can, at the same time, have a series of sometimes informal, but no less important interactions with parents, some of whom may share concerns, ideas, or raise questions.

My morning vigil is also an opportunity to keep an eye on traffic in our immediate vicinity. My experience over a decade of ‘standing post’ would seem to indicate that the presence of adult supervisors has a moderating effect on driver behavior. If I can keep our students safe through standing in Kong Sin Wan Road, I can claim to have ‘made a difference’ on that particular day.

I was greeted this week by an angry member of the public who had stepped in front of an aggressively driven vehicle to protect some of our children while crossing Cyberport Road on a green light. The person making the report to me was justified in her anger. I was also appalled at the reported behavior of the driver. I urged her to make a report to the police in the hope that the driver could be found and dealt with according to the laws of Hong Kong.

While this incident is at the extreme end of the spectrum, I do observe driver behavior regularly that leads me to believe that many drivers are very keen to assert their rights – to park whenever and wherever they want and to drive in any manner and at any speed when travelling to and from school – without giving much thought to the impact these actions have on others.

This begs the question: where is the recognition that our rights are balanced by responsibilities?

To offer a simple example, the pictured vehicle, photographed two weeks ago, is parked on the footpath on Kong Sin Wan Road used by all of our secondary school students – more than 650. On this day, the driver had left the vehicle unattended, forcing our students to walk on the road to get around the obstacle. For me, this raises the question: why does this driver have the right to put over 600 children at risk? Where is the balanced ‘responsibility’ to exercise care and concern for others?

Public interest in the large volume of vehicular traffic generated by our school each school day is very high. Members of the public who reside or work in the vicinity of our school are calling for government intervention to limit private car access to the school and punish poor driver behavior. I thoroughly concur with the latter. While I recognize the rights of citizens to drive registered vehicles on public roads in accordance with Hong Kong law, I am also concerned about the apparent lack of responsibility exercised by some in the pursuit of their rights.

As I have written in the past, our current service agreement with the Hong Kong Government contains a provision that requires the school to assist in the management of traffic in our neighborhood. We also have a shared Community Code under which all members of the ISF family have agreed to act in accordance with the Code, and which binds us all to act with care, integrity, and respect for others and our school.

We are under scrutiny by the wider public to do a better job at managing our own environment, including the use of private vehicles. We have a responsibility to work together to improve the situation or face intervention that will curtail rights and impose restrictions on vehicle use. All adult members of the ISF community have an obligation to act responsibly.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, from an educational perspective, we are constantly subject to the scrutiny of our children. They hear about moral virtue – respect, duty, responsibility, and care – from their parents and teachers. Sadly, it is questionable whether our children are able to see those same moral virtues reflected in the ways in which we drive and park our cars each day. They would ask of us: why can’t we do better?

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