The Telegraph describes how a Dutch town gave up traffic lights. Strangely enough the result was reduced accidents and increased traffic flow.
The project is the brainchild of Mr Monderman, and the town has seen some remarkable results. There used to be a road death every three years but there have been none since the traffic light removal started seven years ago.
There have been a few small collisions, but these are almost to be encouraged, Mr Monderman explained. “We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt,” he said yesterday.
“It works well because it is dangerous, which is exactly what we want. But it shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for his or her own risk.
The idea is that people who have to decide for themselves when to go or stop will take more care in doing so; also, they won’t hinder traffic by waiting for lights when there is no need to.
As someone who’s driven thousands of miles around Europe in some of the wildest driving conditions (Italy and Russia), I think a good way to explain the difference is between “free market” and “socialistic” driving systems, roughly speaking. The United States has an authoritarian, “socialistic” traffic system. With a few notable exceptions such as the drivers here in Boston, most people adhere to a strict, top-down system of traffic management.
Italians for example, especially those around Naples, have more of a “free market” system of driving. Not by design, as in the Netherlands test, but because Italians just ignore traffic laws. The result seems to work well; everyone gets around without a noticeably greater accident rate. In fact, studies I’ve read indicate that it’s Germany–with strict traffic regulations similar to those in the U.S.–that has one of the highest serious accident rates.
Think of it as the invisible hand applied to traffic flow. Besides, there’s something a lot of fun about roundabouts. So here’s my vote to use them in place of the dangerous and traffic-hindering traffic lights.