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The days of the Good Samaritan are gone after it was revealed the majority of motorists would not stop to help a stranger by the side of the road.
A fear of being attacked or wrongly accused of something is the main reason given by 55 per cent of drivers as to why they wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker, assist a stranded motorist or even help a distressed child.
According to a survey carried out by mycarcheck.com, the car data checking company, the average driver’s fear of contact with strangers is such that 15 per cent would rather stop to attend an injured animal than to offer assistance to another a human.
"Over the last 40 years we’ve seen fear of crime rise despite the fact that over the last 20 years violent crime figures have fallen." said Dr Keith Hayward, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Kent University.
Recently police issued a warning about a bogus breakdown scam which involves gangs flagging down passing motorists in an apparent appeal for help and then subjected them to aggressive demands for money.
There have been a number of such cases reported across the country in recent months so it comes as little surprise in the current climate that only (6%) of those interviewed said they’d stop for a man whose car had broken down.
The fear of being wrongly accused, attacked or abused is so strong that 70 per cent of men wouldn’t stop for a distressed child in case false allegations were made against them.
"There’s a notion in society that there’s a paedophile lurking round every corner. People fear children generally speaking. We are told all the time that children are wild." said Dr Hayward
"We are worried they might try to rob us or worried that if they’re too young allegations could be made against us."
Dr Howard said the fear could be seen in other areas of life. "Men volunteering for things like scouting agencies are down, It’s not so much because they’re worried about allegations being made against them by children but rather it’s how they’re perceived by their peers who may say 'Hang on a second what is that guy doing hanging round a scout hut?’"
Women are much more likely to hit the brakes when seeing a distressed child with 90 per cent saying they wouldn’t hesitate to stop. A selfish motoring minority (6 per cent) said they wouldn’t stop for anything, including a hitchhiker or even an accident, because they simply couldn’t be bothered and didn’t regard it as their problem.
"We’ve become increasingly individualised as a society," said Dr Hayward. "Twenty-five years ago is was quite easy to get a lift about the place but now car ownership has gone up less people are in need of a ride. This has changed the public perception of hitchhikers who are seen as being too poor to have a car or even pay for public transport."
"People who are reasonably affluent look down on people who haven’t got things, rather than feeling sorry for them."
"Affluent people look down on those without and think ‘Why should I help somebody else out? Why don’t those people get a job? Why do I have to pay taxes for them? Why should I give them a lift?’"
Thankfully there are those who remain steadfastly unaffected by such callous self-interest as 54 per cent said they’d stop if they saw an accident.
However, chivalry still lives on in some form as more than a third of men admit they’d stop for a damsel in distress although many admit it depended on what she looked like.
"The perception of fear is often worse than the reality but people appear to be genuinely afraid of getting involved with helping others," said Roger Powell, General Manager of mycarcheck.com.
"Hitchhiking used to be a common method of getting around but it’s increasingly rare to see a driver stop to pick up somebody thumbing a lift."
"The idea many drivers wouldn’t even stop to help a child or an accident victim is the most worrying trend."