Monica Yant Kinney | The pope's own rules of the road

Posted: June 20, 2007

You know traffic is bad if the pope is popping off about it.

Benedict XVI rides in style in a chauffeur-driven popemobile, but the view from his room is all gridlock and road rage.

Hence, the Vatican's "Ten Commandments for Drivers," issued early yesterday afternoon, in time to make the late-night talk show monologues.

God may frown on mocking such a noble effort, but that's a risk I'll have to take.

Commandment No. 5: Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination.

Have these priests never been behind the wheel of a Hummer?

Commandment No. 2: The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

Have they never been stuck behind a roving PennDot crew on the Schuylkill Expressway? A spiritual experience, it is not.

And what to make of the warning to respect "the duty to have vehicles serviced?" Do procrastinators risk damnation for waiting 5,000 miles between oil changes?

The new, improved car commandments are nestled inside a 59-page report by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

The guidelines are meant to remind drivers about the "phenomenon of human mobility" and "moral aspects of driving."

Consider it a call for calm and civility behind the wheel, from the Vatican to New Jersey.

Thou shall not tailgate

Driving, if you didn't already know it, can be an "occasion of sin" punishable by a lifetime of gaper delays on the Conshohocken Curve.

I'll grant them that driving leads to activities including, but not limited to, "cursing, blasphemy and a loss of sense of responsibility."

But clearly, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People has never spent much time driving cross-country with a car full of kids.

If they had, they'd never have likened "rude gestures" with "unbalanced behavior."

And who has time to spread the "Gospel message of love applied to the road issue" when we're all so busy running late?

So slow down, suggests Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Turn off the radio. Say a little prayer.

"Being human means coexisting with each other and roads should therefore be more human," she told me after reading the report.

"Whenever I get impatient with other drivers, I try think to myself, 'What if that were my mother or father?' "

The celestial carpool

The folks at AAA Mid-Atlantic are euphoric over the "Ten Commandments for Drivers," and not just because spokeswoman Catherine Rossi used to work at the archdiocese.

Aggressive driving may contribute to more than 1,000 deaths a year in the Mid-Atlantic region. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that crashes caused by bad behavior cost society more than $404 billion a year, or $76,865 per minute.

"The Vatican has formally recognized traffic safety as an important moral issue," said Rossi, who commuted from Wilmington to Philadelphia via I-95 for 12 years, 80 hellish minutes each way.

These days, Rossi walks to work. "I don't miss it at all."

As for the rest of us stuck sweating bumper-to-bumper?

Amid the high holy expectations - "Good drivers courteously give way to pedestrians, are not offended when overtaken, allow someone who wishes to drive faster to pass and do not seek revenge" - the Vatican offers a glimmer of hope.

The report reminds us that even when the passenger seat is empty, "motorists are never alone."

So God really is my co-pilot?

HOV lane, here we come.


Contact Monica Yant Kinney at myant@phillynews or 215-854-4670. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/yantkinney

Read the Ten Commandments for Drivers at http://go.philly.com/roadrules.

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