When we try and prevent accidents are creating them?

Some traffic studies show eliminating signs, curbs, and road lines actually substantially decreases accidents

This Wired article discusses ways to decrease traffic accidents as well as pedestrian and bike interaction. The basis of the article is when we tell people how to

Cycling on Dutch alleys.

drive, we allow them to drive to that limit. When we force drivers to pay attention, they slow down and pay attention.

Examples in the article include a roundabout with 20,000 vehicles plus pedestrians and cyclists going through the intersection each day with no signs. There is also no honking no screeching brakes and no yelling. By eliminating signs, crosswalks and lanes the drivers are forced to pay attention and watch for each other.

The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact. Remarkably, traffic moves smoothly around the circle with hardly a brake screeching, horn honking, or obscene gesture.

A town in Denmark eliminated the signs and signals at an intersection and dropped fatalities at the intersection from three to zero. In England, center lanes were removed from roadways and accidents decreased by 35%.

When you tell drivers how to drive, they then ignore pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers. If you force them to pay attention because no one is telling them what to do (or not to pay attention), there are fewer accidents.

Are we putting people at risk by trying to keep them safe?

By telling someone what to do, how to do it, and what speed to do it at, are we taking away from them the “desire” to watch out for others. If you don’t have to watch for people, because we tell you, you don’t have to, do you quit watching?

These studies tend to indicate that.

A study that is frequently cited when discussing Risk Homeostasis is accident rates before and after putting antilock brakes on cabs. Once the brakes were installed the cabbies drove faster and shortened their stopping distance.

If we don’t have to think about safety do we ignore it?

Is the corollary true? Are we creating expectations of safety where none exist? Do crossing walks and curbs create a feeling of safety in pedestrians? Do bike lanes make cyclists feel safe? Do bike lanes make drivers believe that cyclists are safer? A study in England showed that cyclists in bike lanes were crowded more by cars. Another study showed that when cyclists wore helmets, cars and trucks gave the cyclists less room when passing.

Does this discussion extend to all parts of life?

English: Bicycle sharrows (shared-lane marking...

Danger signs, fencing, no trespassing signs are needed to protect us from our own stupidity?

I always love signs that are obviously pointing out dangers to young children…..who can’t read.

Is litigation to make the world safer doing just the opposite?

For other studies on the issue of getting stupider see: Does being safe make us stupid? Studies say yes.

To read the article see: Roads Gone Wild

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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