Few Traffic Rules = Safer Roads


“So far, the data seems to support Monderman’s theory. At least one report (PDF) on Drachten’s traffic experiment found a significant drop in accidents and injuries after traffic signals were removed at a busy intersection — from between four and ten a year before the change to one per year thereafter. Traffic also began to move faster through the intersection even as it became safer. “On the busiest streets average times to cross the intersection have fallen from 50 seconds to about 30 seconds.”

There’s a concept called “spontaneous order” popular among many philosophers and economists. The idea is that people are perfectly capable of adapting to new situations and establishing rules of the game for dealing with one another that are better than those imposed from above. The Drachten experiment looks to be an example of spontaneous order in action, as people create, on the fly, safe, sane ways to negotiate their way through busy roads…

But left for the future is the idea that there might be wider lessons to be drawn from Drachten’s experiment in letting people negotiate their relationships with one another with fewer rules standing in the way of better outcomes.”

There is excellent data out there suggesting that traffic lights with cameras actually increase accidents at those intersections. But here’s the dilemma– they make more money for the city:

The District’s red-light cameras have generated more than 500,000 violations and $32 million in fines over the past six years. City officials credit them with making busy roads safer.

But a Washington Post analysis of crash statistics shows that the number of accidents has gone up at intersections with the cameras. The increase is the same or worse than at traffic signals without the devices.

Few Traffic Rules = Safer Roads