Neil McNicholas: Reckless lack of regard for others is root of many evils

I HAVE just got home after a short drive, some of which was along a stretch of road governed by a 50mph speed limit.

There are huge “50” signs at either end of the that stretch and so there is no excuse for drivers not seeing them and yet I was passed by vehicle after vehicle travelling at anything up to 70 – and with impunity because there are never any police around to catch them.

This is just one example, at the lower end of the spectrum, of people having no regard for the law or for the safety of their fellow road users which they put at risk by their reckless (sadly not always wreck-less) attitude.

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The Yorkshire Post reported last week the case of a man charged for the seventh time for drink-driving (not to mention driving while disqualified, having no insurance and resisting arrest).

The fact that the judge gave him a community service order – he was reluctant to jail him because previous custodial sentences hadn’t prevented him from re-offending – doesn’t do a thing in terms of teaching a lesson.

But to read about incidents like this is deeply unsettling – to know that there are people out there who have no qualms whatsoever in repeatedly disregarding the law and in so doing continuing to deliberately putting lives at risk.

There are still people being arrested for drink-driving despite the fact that it is now 45 years since breathalyser tests were introduced in the UK as part of a new initiative to penalise people who drive while over the alcohol limit.

Clearly it reflects a total disregard for the law and for the risk such individuals pose to the lives of other road users. And the same thing applies to those who blatantly ignore the more recent law banning the use of mobile phones while driving. People continue to do it – phoning, even texting – you see them behind the wheel all the time. Why do they selfishly put other’s lives at risk in this way, purely for their own convenience?

But the questions get worse and more complex to answer.

From where do youngsters get it into their heads that it would be amusing to hurl lumps of concrete from motorway bridges down onto fast-moving traffic below?

Or to leave obstructions on railway lines or even steel rails specifically set into the ground in such a way that they will tear into the front of on-coming trains, or to throw rocks through train cab windows when this could quite clearly serious injure the driver?

How are such actions not treated as attempted manslaughter if and when the culprits are caught?

But, more basically, the question arises: how do such nightmare scenarios come into the minds of youngsters in the first place? And why do they think it doesn’t matter if they derail a train or kill someone?

From time to time we learn of meat suppliers selling tainted meat to restaurants with little or no regard for the fact that it could make those unfortunate enough to eat it seriously ill. Anything to make money. Also restaurant owners being charged with having rats and mice and cockroaches infesting their filthy premises – again there is no regard for the health and well-being of their customers just so long as they, the owners, are making proverbial hay while the sun shines.

Now we have the latest food scandal with horse meat being found in the food chain in the guise of beef and, worse still, the fact that it might contain equine drugs that could pose a risk to humans.

If current suspicions prove correct, what it will also bring to light is a total disregard for the health of people consuming the meat, indeed a willingness to put their health at serious risk for the sake of making a quick and illegal buck.

What we are looking at in each of these examples is sociopathy at its worst – not only (by definition) a total disregard for the concepts of right and wrong that underpin society’s laws and morals, but an equally total disregard for the risk to life and limb that could result, and this is what I think we find most frightening.

There are people out there who appear not to care – and many who actually don’t – what they do, how they do it, or what the cost might be, so long as they are all right (Jack).

As a society we place a high level of trust in those responsible for the supply and preparation of our food and it is deeply unsettling to find that our trust has been not only misplaced but betrayed, and possibly all for personal and criminal gain.

Trust, so monumentally betrayed, will be a difficult thing to regain in all walks of life.