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
    mousepaw, 12 Nov 2006 @ 5:23am

    Lights/no lights and driving styles

    Someone mentioned that it would have to be a societal change and that's it exactly.

    Where I live, the cultures seem to cluster into areas. So we have little Italy (well, more than one), little China, little Greece, etc. Driving through each neighbourhood is like a snapshot of the country from which they hail. The Italians pay absolutely no attention to the signs and their traffic flows like a river. There is minimal screaming or honking. Drive through little India and there's no getting anywhere except to the next red light at 15kph and you get cut off every step of the way. Get into the older part of town where there's a major 4-way stop and nobody stops, it flows like crazy and you really have to be on the ball. It actually works more like a directional stop because the North and South people go at the same time and then the East/West people go. They're not patient with people who don't know the rules at that 4-way and I can see how it would intimidate new drivers.

    When in doubt, follow the rules otherwise, when in Rome...

    I was going to talk a bit about our highways, but it's not worth it. I think we can apply the old saw "good intentions pave the road to hell."

    Latest rumour: they were thinking of raising the speed limit on the 401 back up to 70mph/120kph. They aren't going to though because allegedly it would reduce the amount of money they get in speeding tickets. I think that 80% of the people who have licences here would throw up at the thought of going that fast.

    My BIG beef is with the driving instructors. Want safer drivers? TEACH THEM HOW TO DRIVE. PREFERABLY IN THE WINTER. (If there's winter in your locale.) I don't know how many driver-ed cars I see go by with the instructor in the passenger seat (death seat) on the phone while their student driver is trying to negotiate on their own with a couple of other students in the back seat talking on their cell phones.

    Driving is a privledge not a God-given right. If we could get back to that mentality, I don't think lights/signs would matter.

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