It’s not legal but it’s safe

Posted: April 20, 2011

A potential storm in a tea cup is brewing over at Twitter, where popular blogger Kiruba tweeted just a little while ago,During yesterday’s drive from Chennai to Bangalore, my kids drove 140 out of the 360 kms journey. Not legal but we were driving real safe.” Madhu Menon has called him out on it, and a few others still have jumped in to defend him, with excuses ranging from “chill, everyone does illegal things” to “age has no relationship to how well you drive.”

For the argument, let us assume that Kiruba’s kids are exceptionally talented drivers, unlikely to cause any more harm than a competent adult driver would. And, he has also mentioned that they took turns sitting on his lap and driving, which I suppose means that at all times, he could have taken control of the steering and brakes.

So, if one gets the safety argument out of the way (just for argument’s sake, since it really can’t be pushed out otherwise), does that make it ok to allow one’s kids to do obviously illegal stuff? As one tweeter casually said, everyone does illegal stuff – everyone of us at one point or another is likely to have paid a bribe to a policeman or government office – though technically, it is the taking of the bribe that should be illegal. That doesn’t necessarily make it right though. Of course, I can understand when you’ve made the rounds of the city corporation 10 times and your files are not moving, it is tempting to just cough up the bribe and be done with it. I can see the imperative there. Letting your kids flout driving rules put there for a good reason? Not so much.

I am also a little wary of judging laws by individual case results. Here, I must confess that my husband is among those kids who started driving a few years before the legal age. Of course, this was over very short distances, and in the 80s and in a small town with very little traffic – it is still illegal, never mind that he is an excellent driver and has not caused harm to anyone. I also know cases of kids who were allowed to drive too early and did cause damage, although not anything serious. One cannot say whether flouting a law is ok or not depending on individual cases – laws exist based on an understanding of average or typical behaviour; in this case, the ‘average age’ at which people have been deemed qualified to drive is 18, and while that is not a “sufficient” condition for good driving, it is a “necessary one” for driving. (Necessary Vs. Sufficient conditions explained)

It’s also worth thinking about the message that goes out to kids (and I am not targeting Kiruba personally here, since I have no clue what sort of moral instruction he otherwise gives his kids) – but one has to think about the consequences of letting kids feel that laws do not really matter. In general, we Indians have a ‘sab kuch chalta hai’ attitude – and we are even proud of it, considering it as part of our flexible, adaptible society. But, we also have among the highest rates of road accidents in the world – and one has to wonder, how much of that is due to this ‘laws don’t matter’ attitude?

Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas

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  1. It is all about that message that goes out to kids, as you have rightly mentioned.
    By openly letting the kids flout rules, the parent showed his lack of maturity.

  2. @Shail – I do wish parents would think twice about these things; how is it possible to teach our kids that it’s ok to flout laws and then at the same time, crib about how corrupt and lawless India is blah blah?

    @Ashish – thanks for the link. His justifications don’t really sound convincing – I feel he is following up a rather thoughtless act with more such!

  3. Aparna,

    Comparing a kid driving a car sitting on his/her father’s lap to someone offering a bribe (wrt ‘illegal’ things that people do in India) is not the best of analogies. Giving someone a bribe, though totally wrong, does not potentially put anyone’s life in danger as such. Kiruba clearly mentioned that they were on the highway & anyone who’s driven 350 kms worth on a stretch as Chennai-B’lore would know how cars speed along. Having your kid drive it is dangerous for your as well as others’ safety.
    What irks me more than his tweet though is his comeback in the form of his blogpost. Unapologetic, brazen & justifying his actions by decorating it with a fancy term like ‘involvement learning’. What a load of bull!

  4. @ Shivani – oh, absolutely. I didn’t mean that they are analogies. In fact, what I meant was that I can understand the frustration that makes us flout the law, in some situations, but certainly not in this case. There was absolutely no need to.

  5. OMG! I dont believe that guy did it and on top of that has written a blogpost justifying it as ‘involvement learning’. What nonsense! and there are people who are supporting him (in the comments section) saying that other people (who are getting angry at him) should first look at whether they broke a traffic signal or something. Whats wrong with the world? How can anyone even think of letting a 9 year old drive? I am shocked seriously shocked!

  6. I’ve seen children driving two wheelers and found them lacking the necessary road sense and are more a pain to other commuters than to themselves. They feel empowered and their parents gloat on the achievement. But letting a kid drive a car on the highway is not only risky but senseless. I wish parents would stop bragging abt it.It puts me off to see such irresponsible parenting.

  7. Aparna:

    When this was tweeted, I had wondered aloud if the parent would be happy shooting cocaine with his under-age child, so long as they are using clean syringes. I mean it is not legal, but hey, it is safe! It is a reckless argument to make especially as the child is just constructing his or her worldview based on empirical data collected from not just observed behaviours but allowed behaviours and overlooked behaviours.

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