Friday, July 6, 2012

Safer roads by people who just want them to be safe

There were two news items recently which triggered some thoughts - nothing unusual in the news items.

  1. The drive to issue traffic violation challans was effective and police collected x amount of money in traffic fines.
  2. The second item was that there was a shortage of policemen to monitor traffic.
Until the internet made it easy to share software, we were at the mercy of the intermediaries. In fact, it took quite some time for many of us to accept that the intermediaries were not needed, at least as far as distribution of software was concerned.

Many people are probably still not convinced. "You get what you pay for" is an ideology marketed in our brain and it is hard to unlearn it or even question it.

If the speed limits are reasonable, most of the people do not want to speed or violate traffic rules. Can we create an infrastructure which makes it possible for us to volunteer to improve traffic flow? One long term solution is self driven cars, the likelihood of it making an impact in India is minimal in the next few decades.

My observation is that if the traffic is moving at a steady pace, the need for overtaking reduces. So, what if every minute, a car was moving at the speed limit? Would we be tempted to overtake the car or would we get used to the idea of driving within speed limit.

The intention has to be to change the mindset of people - not fine them and hope that they learn. (I have come across people who bragged about bribing and getting away with traffic violations but rarely anyone who acknowledged being caught and paid a fine.)

So as a start, on dangerous highways, police could encourage a car every minute to carry a gps device which will monitor his/her speed and encourage them to stay within speed limits. If an incentive seems to be needed, it could be reduced toll on a toll road. The fact that these cars are being monitored would, over time, ensure that the drivers behind them are less likely to get impatient. And if we are lucky, that becomes their default behavior.

I wish I could try it out as a NetLogo model :)

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