Monday, August 31, 2009

Tickets are Good but Traffic Safety May Be Hopeless

Tom Vanderbilt, in a piece in Salon, argues that traffic tickets have a variety of social benefits, including catching folks who committed other, more severe crimes. The article points out that increased enforcement does increase safety. And this is interesting as his book, Traffic: Why do We Drive the Way We Do which I just finished, suggests that humans make increased driver safety almost entirely hopeless. Nearly all efforts to make cars and roads safer only increase the willingness of drivers to take risks. For example, ABS brakes, not only poorly understood, may encourage drivers to go faster since they think they can brake better.

Even before I saw this article in today's Salon, I was going to post what I learned from reading Traffic:
  1. Humans do not perceive well.
  2. Humans analyze risk poorly.
  3. Fewer signs are better than more.
  4. Roundabouts are safer than intersections.
  5. This quote.
  6. Slower is often faster.
  7. The aforementioned conclusion that much driver safety efforts are hopeless since drivers will just engage in more risky behavior.
  8. and perhaps the only lesson that has changed how I drive--late merging > early merging.
So, we conclude from the book and the article that more money spent on cops, radar cameras and red light cameras are a better investment than the latest doodads that would make individual cars safer. That and cultural changes in the acceptability of risky driving.

Any recommendations for the next bit of pop social science to read?

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