Training Drivers to Ignore the Road

Interesting article in The Atlantic comparing American and British road systems:

Quoting John Staddon:

The four-way stop deserves special recognition as a masterpiece of counterproductive public-safety efforts.  Where should the driver look?  What must he remember? ... "The rules for a four-way stop are like those for a two-way: Stop and look for oncoming traffic, and proceed when it is safe to do so."  So far so good, but then: "You may occasionally arrive at a four-way stop sign at the same time as another driver.  In such cases the driver to the right has the right of way.  However, not all drivers know this.  If someone to your left decides to go first, let them!"  Thanks! But remind me: aside from bewildering the driver, what’s the point of stopping traffic in all four directions? [...]

Speed limits in the U.S. are perhaps a more severe safety hazard than stop signs.  In many places, they change too frequently--sometimes every few hundred yards--once again training drivers to look for signs, not at the road. [...]

A particularly vexing aspect of the U.S. policy is that speed limits seem to be enforced more when speeding is safe.  As a colleague once pointed out, "An empty highway on a sunny day?  You’re dead meat!"  A more systematic effort to train drivers to ignore road conditions can hardly be imagined. [...]

When you’ve trained people to drive according to the signs, you need to keep adding more signs to tell them exactly when and in what fashion they need to adjust their behavior.  Otherwise, drivers may see no reason why they should slow down on a curve in the rain.

Posted by Anthony on reply

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