A great anecdote from an article in Smithsonian (which quotes Traffic) on risk compensation:
Soon after the first gasoline-powered horseless carriages appeared on English roadways, the secretary of the national Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland suggested that all those who owned property along the kingdom’s roadways trim their hedges to make it easier for drivers to see. In response, a retired army colonel named Willoughby Verner fired off a letter to the editor of the Times of London, which printed it on July 13, 1908.
“Before any of your readers may be induced to cut their hedges as suggested by the secretary of the Motor Union they may like to know my experience of having done so,” Verner wrote. “Four years ago I cut down the hedges and shrubs to a height of 4ft for 30 yards back from the dangerous crossing in this hamlet. The results were twofold: the following summer my garden was smothered with dust caused by fast-driven cars, and the average pace of the passing cars was considerably increased. This was bad enough, but when the culprits secured by the police pleaded that ‘it was perfectly safe to go fast’ because ‘they could see well at the corner,’ I realised that I had made a mistake.” He added that he had since let his hedges and shrubs grow back.
I couldn’t help also think of a story today about a woman killed by a reckless driver (police think he was racing, and manslaughter charges are a possibility) in San Diego.
“Route 67 between Poway Road and Ramona has been the scene of numerous fatal crashes over the years. Calls to widen the winding route have been made for some time, but transportation and highway patrol officials say the real problem isn’t with the road but with the way people drive on it… Speeding is responsible for most of the crashes, they say.”
It’s amazing how short-sighted (not seeing the forest for the, er, hedgerows) people can be in this respect; widening the road is absolutely the last thing that will reduce what seems to be a speed problem.
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