Peter Rhodes on stupid pedestrians, suspicious empty shelves and two truths about lifeboats

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Changing the rules
Changing the rules

Strange, isn't it, that pedestrians are to be given top priority in a new Highway Code hierarchy of road users, precisely at the moment in history when pedestrians are stupider than they have ever been?

Today's smartphone zombies, ignoring all lights and endlessly fixated on their mobile phones, are accidents not only waiting to happen but eagerly embracing their own destruction. According to Wikipedia, the field of vision of a smartphone user is estimated to be just five per cent of a normal pedestrian's.

It is absolute common sense for all motorists to watch out for pedestrians crossing the road, as the existing Highway Code tells us. But any change that makes pedestrians think they can wade into lines of traffic is simply dangerous. When it comes to road accidents, all that really matters is not who's to blame or who had the right of way but who got squashed. What's wrong with a simple Highway Code commandment for pedestrians: “When using a road or footpath, switch that bloody mobile off.”

Memo to compulsive users of modern terms. The above item is not “victim blaming.” It is idiot blaming.

Some arguments contain two truths. It is true, for example, that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution has a solemn legal and ethical duty to assist those in peril on the deep. But it is also true that, in some cases, lifeboats are the final link in the vast international people-smuggling industry, and that every rescue may encourage others to risk their lives, too. But both these truths are trumped by the far greater truth that, of all the ways to decide who may or may not settle in this country, the wickedest is to make them sail across the English Channel.

When panic buying leads to empty supermarket shelves, the first commodity to go missing is that essential item, a pinch of salt. Do not believe everything you see or hear. If a national news organisation asks a picture agency or freelance to provide images of empty shelves, that's exactly what they'll get. You may never know when the pictures were taken (this year, last year?), in what circumstances (routine stock-taking, perhaps?) or what they actually show.

A few years ago, “panic buying” coverage included an excellent image of a trolley in a supermarket piled so high with toilet rolls that they conveniently obscured the face of the shopper. Who, I suspect may have been a close friend of the photographer.

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