ONE of the scariest sights I have seen while cycling around York was an enormous lorry negotiating a roundabout at some speed while the driver was using his mobile. The truck was British and I am guessing that the driver was, too. As was the one hand holding the massive steering wheel.
I thought of this incident when I saw the front page of the Daily Mail today.This features nine pictures of lorry drivers snapped using their mobile phones while driving. So far, so good.
These drivers were among 17 dangerous idiots the newspaper photographed on a busy motorway, the M20 in Kent, on Tuesday. Again, so far, so good.
“Eyes glued to their phones, these truckers are gambling with people’s lives,” the report begins, reasonably enough. Driving while using your mobile phone is meant to be a crime. Far too many people do it. So, well done to the Mail for once – but only up to a point.
The Mail’s story follows the tragic case of the Polish lorry driver jailed this week for killing a family while distracted on his mobile phone. Its front page this morning takes this story further, by highlighting foreign truck drivers using their mobiles while driving. The paper says the 17 foreign drivers were spotted on their phones in 90 minutes.
Now this is both a legitimate way to report this troubling matter – and an inflammatory way. It is fair enough to see how many lorry drivers you can catch using their mobiles in motion. But why pick only on foreign drivers?
The Mail logic is simple enough: a foreign driver caused one tragic accident, so foreigners are to blame. And Tomasz Kroker was to blame, no doubt about that. Footage from inside his cab showed him scrolling through music on his phone before he ploughed into stationary traffic on the A34 in Berkshire. The paper reports that Tracy Houghton, 45, her sons Ethan, 13, and 11-year-old Josh, and step-daughter Aimee Goldsmith, 11, died instantly.
To have killed four people through a moment’s inattention is truly awful. Yet this morning the Mail is framing this as a problem only caused by foreign lorry drivers. Now it may be that they are more careless with their mobiles than indigenous drivers. But do we know that or is the Mail just using one tragic case as another way to have a go at foreigners?
Home-grown dangerous idiots exist as well as foreign dangerous idiot. And it is wrong to somehow present this as a one-sided problem
The Mail knows the problem is widespread because it launched an End The Mobile Madness campaign in September after a survey by the RAC revealed the “shocking scale of illegal phone use by drivers”. In the past ten years, more than 200 Britons have been killed by drivers distracted by their phones.
So, why turn this around today and point only at foreign drivers? Remember that this is a newspaper that seems happy to report Muslims in a negative light. It has done this in the past by, for example, mentioning the religion of an offender in a court case. Years ago, it was upheld by many that the Mail did something similar in highlighting crimes where the perpetrators were black.
All this should make us uncomfortable. Yet it is only fair to say that, life being complicated, the Mail has also been one of the strongest campaigners in attempting to find out the truth about the murder of Stephen Lawrence
But pointing the finger of blame only at foreign lorry drivers? That’s a bit of old-fashioned resentment-stirring.