Commentary

Increasing danger, for safetyís sake

Some economists suggest (only partly in jest) that the best way to get people to drive safely would be to equip each steering wheel with a buck knife aimed right at the driver. And in places like Switzerland officials purposely avoid heavy duty safety barriers on mountain roads, and a while back a reader explained why: [M]y favourite road into the mountains has, as the safety barrier between the single lane and an 800′ drop, a 4×6 piece of wood, set in posts. When I asked about this my Swiss friend said “if we put in heavier barriers people will just drive too quickly”. Here’s another application of the same principle: A Wiltshire village is piloting a road safety experiment in which its traffic calming measures are removed. The village of Latton no longer has speed humps or chicanes, and the white lane markings in the middle of the road have been taken away. Instead, architectural designers are hoping the lack of road markings will make drivers more aware of other cars. Andrew Wyatt, from the Wiltshire Traffic Safety Police said “The boundaries are psychological.” Rupert Lovell, landscape architect said the lack of road markings forced drivers to be on their guard. “The perceived increase in risk hopefully has the effect of slowing motorists down,” he said.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.