The thin green line

Who would have thought that the bobby has a role in fighting climate change? Well he does, and it’s big.

Anyone who has been to Budapest may have noticed that Hungarians are awful drivers. Not just the career women who attempt to reverse park their Porsche Mephistos one-handed while chattering on the mobile. But also bus drivers, taxi drivers, deliverymen, old chaps in Wartburgs, and yuppies in BMWs. The result of this is that zebra crossings, pavements, and bus stops are, seriously, dangerous places to be.

A couple of months ago we saw a lad crossing at a zebra crossing with a green light. A car swept round the corner, the driver was chattering away to her passengers, and sent the chap flying five meters. Luckily he survived. Two weeks ago, the same thing happened to a classmate of my daughter walking over a zebra crossing with a green light. Lo and behold a driver (f.), not concentrating on the driving, runs into the girl and breaks her leg. This is everyday entertainment in Budapest.

Thus there is a debate in our household about the best way to go to school in the morning. One camp says by foot and public transport. The other says by car. The latter position is nothing to do with convenience, comfort, time, or cost. It simply comes down to safety and the perception of safety.

However climate conscious you are and however much you want to save the planet, if you think of your son walking over a zebra crossing and a thug in a Porsche Mephisto turning him into a pancake, then you have to admit: Mum is right.

There is an “externality” here which the accountants in the Interior Ministry have overlooked, probably because they don’t talk to the accountants in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment. We need a modest investment in putting more policemen on the beat. And they need powers to fine, jail, and execute bad drivers. This will lead to people feeling safer out and about. Mums won’t have to spend an hour or more each day driving their kids to school. This will cut car use and get people onto their feet again. Greenhouse gas emissions will fall together with childhood obesity. The world will become a better place.

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