Remember Death Race 2000? It’s OK, you probably don’t. It’s a rubbish 1970s film starring Sylvester Stallone. Maniacs in souped-up cars cruise the dystopian streets of The Future, searching for innocent pedestrians to run over so they can score points.
I thought of this film the other day, after a homicidal seven-year-old on a scooter knocked my toddler to the pavement while we were taking my six-year-old to school.
Death Race rules state that you get extra points for a child under 12 or a pensioner. I assume that’s why this is the third time this has happened this year, and why the polite requests in the school newsletter to parents to keep their scootering children under control are sounding increasingly wearied.
I always thought that the biggest school run threat would be angry car drivers. I never imagined it would be other kids – even other toddlers – doing their very own junior Death Race on their three-wheeled slivers of doom.
Neither did Kate, 38, mum to Thomas, eight.
“Don’t get me started on the things. I would have them banned,” she fumes.
“I can’t bear stupid mothers who let their kids scoot either a mile ahead or behind them, thus having NO control over them or where they are directing their implement of devilry.
“Or parents who let children ride across the road rather than hauling them off the blasted thing, carrying it, and holding their hand – like you are supposed to do with children.”
Being very old, I remember when scooters were quite innocent. They were made of plastic and you could go about walking pace on them.
You played with them in the park, or in the playground of your nursery.
Once you got your first bike, you wouldn’t be seen dead with one. They were for babies.
So you abandoned the scooter to biodegrade over thousands of years down the bottom of the garden.
Then you roamed around your local area, happily exploring on a bike handily featuring two sets of brakes, a sturdy frame and two large wheels capable of going over kerbs and small holes in the pavement without tipping you off.
But now scooters are Cool.
They have names like Powerslide Coolmax, Razorback Graffiti, Mini Suicide. (OK, I made that last one up.)
They are all black and red and shiny. They go very, very fast.
Because of this Cool factor, they also appeal to older children and even – I am sorry to say – their parents, who really should know better. (Yes, middle-aged Clarkson lookalike attempting to do stunts on his silver Crazy Tilt Maxi in the park last week, I am talking to you.)
So I congratulate the scooter manufacturers on their market penetration and hope they will not take it personally when I say that I would like to take every single one of the wretched things and melt them down to make saucepans.
Of course, scooters are very convenient for parents. They get to have a nice walk and a gossip with their mates while their kids shoot off ahead.
They cannot see what their child is doing. This therefore absolves them from any responsibility in the Death Race.
They get to walk past me and my screaming grazed todder with not a word, while examining something terribly important on the other side of the road.
Meanwhile, their children up ahead continue to zoom straight across busy roads without looking, whizz over driveways with cars coming out, and barge their way past elderly dog-walkers.
Part of the appeal of scooters is that you don’t have to ‘learn’ to ride them – you can zip off as soon as they’re out of the box.
That’s convenient but it’s also dangerous. It means that you don’t have to take any time – if you don’t want to – explaining scooter safety to your child.
And unlike bikes, there’s no proficiency course and no rules in the Highway Code you have to follow.
Now, I’m not a safety lunatic. I don’t wrap my kids in cotton wool. My six-year-old rides a bike to school.
But he had safety rules drummed into him while he was still on stabilisers.
When the pavement is crowded and narrow, he gets off and walks. He wears a helmet, and a flurorescent tabard so drivers can see him. He stops at the side of the road. He rides slowly across driveways.
He does not zip along a narrow, crowded pavement at top speed, yelling “oi, out the way” to any pedestrian who has the temerity to not instantly throw themselves into the hedge as you approach. And if he did, that would merit a severe punishment.
So parents, please remember. No young child let loose with a scooter is going to apply caution and common sense unless you make them – loudly and forcibly.
Do it for your child’s safety, as well as mine.