Monday, November 21, 2011

A World Without Traffic Lights

It’s a libertarian's dream: a world without traffic lights.

It started in England, but Carmel, Indiana has given it a try. It's been replacing intersections with traffic lights with roundabouts. It’s not quite the same as beating swords into ploughshares, but it’s a start.

The result: fewer accidents, fewer injuries, less time on the road, and less fuel consumed. Sounds like a good thing.

The Economist reports: “One of their main attractions, says Mayor Brainard, is safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent research group, estimates that converting intersections with traffic lights to roundabouts reduces all crashes by 37% and crashes that involve an injury by 75%. At traffic lights the most common accidents are faster, right-angled collisions. These crashes are eliminated with roundabouts because vehicles travel more slowly and in the same direction. The most common accident is a sideswipe, generally no more than a cosmetic annoyance.

“What locals like, though, is that it is on average far quicker to traverse a series of roundabouts than a similar number of stop lights. Indeed, one national study of ten intersections that could have been turned into roundabouts found that vehicle delays would have been reduced by 62-74% (nationally saving 325,000 hours of motorists’ time annually). Moreover, because fewer vehicles had to wait for traffic lights, 235,000 gallons of fuel could have been saved.”

Obviously, we cannot replace all of the traffic lights in Manhattan with roundabouts.

Still, the evidence is compelling. Left to their own devices, relying solely on their good judgment, unfettered by government red lights… the average citizen inclines toward good vehicular behavior.

Anyone who thinks that human beings are filled with violent impulses that can only be restrained by strict regulations should take a close look at what happened in Carmel, Indiana when they took down the red lights.

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