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 @ 6:28am

    it opens the world up to caution, but what about those with criminal intentions? With out signs and signals people DO pay attention, but there is a large group of people out there looking to make some money thru insurance. With out signs to help show who had the right of way, every one would be taking each other to court for some money. It becomes he-said-she-said and the rich would become targets. Most people driving expensive cars would become targets and the typical person would just opt to settle out of court. Also, with criminal intentions in mind, let's say a pedestrian who is walking down the street is a target for some retaliation. A driver hits the person and kills them. With out signs, who is to say who is at fault? food for thought isn't it, there are many situations where it will happen. the traffic on the highways will free up, but the court system will bog down.
    As far as comment #2 goes, what the heck does being american have to do with driving and being an "arrogant idiotic children" ? That doesn't make sense. Every country has issues, the french, germans, chinese, everyone. It is only because people like you are flooded with american movies that you are programmed by hollywood and also be our often one sided news media that you have this thought. sure we have many idiots, but your country has you!

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