Something inside us drives us to risk our own safety to perform unselfish, even heroic acts without hesitating. Recent history is rich with countless examples of this, at scenes of mass shootings, terrorist bombings, earthquakes, fires, storms and floods. We do not limit these sacrificial acts to our fellow humans. We will hurry to the beach to help rescue a beached whale and enter a burning building to save a trapped family pet.
Americans feel justly proud of this, but we see this sort of humanitarian courage all over the world, not just here. When interviewed following such incidents, our heroes tend to shrug their acts off as normal, what anyone else would have done under the same circumstances. Perhaps this is true. One can hope.
Yet, we see in our public behavior a disturbing trend that to me runs counter to our positive humanitarian responses to difficult situations. I refer to the rise of the hit-and-run.
Lately, local and regional news reports increasingly tell us of drivers speeding away after striking a pedestrian, leaving the injured or dead person lying in the road. How in the world can anyone do this? Well, fear of consequences certainly plays a role. Who wants to get caught doing such a thing, possibly to suffer fines or imprisonment? Has fleeing from responsibility become our norm?
We are striking pedestrians and running away from the scene at a greater rate than ever before. In 2014, latest figures I could find, 4,884 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 65,000 injured by hit-and-run drivers in our nation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About one in five pedestrian deaths are hit-and-runs.
We senior adults take some heat for “living in the past,” according to our younger critics. Maybe. I do remember a time when drivers stopped immediately to render aid if, God forbid, they ever struck a pedestrian. That was normal behavior. Leaving the scene was the exception. People took responsibility. That has changed.
Not all change is progress. Let’s return to caring for one another. That’s normal.