Getting Rid Of Traffic Lights And Traffic Signs To Make Everyone Safer

from the figure-that-one-out dept

It's been a while since we've talked about this topic, but it's one that fascinates me. Back in early 2004, we wrote about a movement under way to have cities remove traffic lights and traffic signs to make the roads safer. You also open up the roads not just to cars, but to bikers and pedestrians as well. It sounds completely counter-intuitive, since those things are supposed to make the roadways safer and more efficient -- but city planners have found the opposite to be true. When you remove all of the guidance, it makes people (and that includes the bikers and pedestrians as well) much more cautious and careful -- so they tend to make fewer dangerous moves. On top of that, it actually makes the traffic flow much more smoothly, allowing people to get where they're going much faster, even if they drive slower. Because they have fewer full stops and long waits to deal with, it's actually much more efficient. There was another article later that year that made the same point, but we haven't heard much about it recently. Jeff Nolan points us to a more recent article that examines the situation in a Dutch town (which was also profiled in the earlier articles), saying that it's been working great. The number of severe traffic accidents has dropped (no deaths since they removed the traffic lights) and people say they get places much faster. They admit that it's confusing for newcomers, but that helps remind everyone else to continue to drive/walk/bike carefully and safely. Jeff wonders if the same counter-intuitive logic might also apply to computer security -- but that might be trickier. With driving, at least everyone needs to pass some sort of licensing exam where they should at least learn the basics of safe driving. While some have suggested similar things for computer users, it's still not the case. Also, the "penalty" for unsafe driving is much more immediate and potentially much more serious and painful. So, the incentives are much stronger to remain safe. Either way, it remains a fascinating concept, though, it still hasn't caught on in that many places.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2006 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Speed bumps :D

    Nowadays, there is driver's ed (30 hours class time), a written test, 10 hours of drive time with an instructor, a short eye exam....

    What the hell are you talking about? It's not even a quarter as hard as you describe it. I recently got my license - for the permit it took 10 hours of classtime and 3 hours behind the wheel, and that's exaggerating, a lot; that was followed by a computer-based multiple-choice test consisting of 15-25 questions, as soon as you get at least 70% right, you pass; if you don't know an answer you can skip the question and maybe you'll be asked it again if you miss too many. There was no logging of hours with an adult, and you automatically get the license in those 6 months (all you need at that point is an eye exam).

    I did not need a road test from the dmv at all to get my license, and I've been driving for 2 years. It is entirely TOO easy - but I am european, I know how things are in germany, and I know how to DRIVE skillfully, beyond the minimum that is required of me; yet to be in an accident or pulled over for any reason.

    This is how it works in texas, but it varies from state-to-state. Although, not much.

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