November 27, 2006

Abolish the Stop Sign?

A few small European towns are abolishing their traffic signs and seeing a decline in accidents as a result, according to Der Spiegel. The theory is that drivers tend to ignore the vast majority of signs anyway, and going sign-free will encourage people to slow down, pay more attention, and be more courteous on the road. Note that this is the basic theory behind the libertarian approach to just about everything. But in this instance, it actually might work.

Now granted, my first thought was that this could only ever work in small towns, but maybe that's wrong, too. Here's a very interesting article from two years back on the movement to do away with stop signs and traffic lights here in the United States. Souzhou, a city of 2.2 million people in China, apparently has no traffic rules whatsoever, and, at least anecdotally, traffic accidents are relatively rare, although I don't know if that's the case for that rest of China. Maybe all that roadside chaos really does cause people to perk the hell up. Here's a mesmerizing video of a busy intersection in India, where, against all odds, traffic seems to flow without incident despite the absence of street signs.
-- Brad Plumer 4:43 PM || ||