Ignoring the Signs

Almost every day I see someone effectively run a stop sign. Just today I would have seen it again if the person didn’t realize that there was actually a car coming from another direction. Even if these drivers don’t blow through it completely, they generally don’t slow enough to make much of a difference. Today’s example, for instance, was nearly halfway across the intersection before they stopped because of the other car.

It’s also rare that I’m out driving and I don’t see someone blatantly ignoring traffic directions, be it a sign or a traffic signal or a combination of both (the “no turn on red” is a popular violation). In Charlotte, there are also a large number of signs that are valid for particular times of day – no right turn from 6am to 9am, for instance. As if anyone notices those at any time of day.

While in most every case I think that the safety of other commuters is not sacrificed, there are undoubtedly times where it is, but let’s face it – that’s the case on any street, at any time. While street signs were undoubtedly useful when people were new to driving, and didn’t realize the rules, and while they have a certain utility to those learning to drive in many cases – have we passed the point where, as a society, we look to the direction offered?

With driving such an integral part of our life, and with the increased apathy towards the signs we do have, have we absorbed the information needed, and quaint developments like street signs are at the point where they should become a thing of the past?

3 Replies to “Ignoring the Signs”

  1. Another great quote:

    “Monderman drove him to a small country road with cows in every direction. Their presence was unnecessarily reinforced by a large, standard-issue European traffic sign with a picture of a cow on it. He said, ‘What do you expect to find here? Wallabees?”‘ Hamilton-Baillie recalled. “‘They’re treating you like you’re a complete idiot, and if people treat you like a complete idiot, you’ll act like one.'”

  2. Nice article. I like the thinking. While obviously there are going to be people behaving (driving) poorly, and while not every locale is ripe for this sort of thing, it makes all sorts of sense.

    I particularly love his later quote in the same article: “I wouldn’t interfere with the right of people to buy the car they want, but nor should the government have to solve the problems they make with their choices.”

  3. Perhaps – I recently read this article about a Dutch engineer, Hans Monderman, who actually made roads safer by removing street signs. I think his designs are interesting, and you can’t ignore his hard evidence. Nonetheless, as he is quoted in the article:

    “While something of a libertarian, Monderman concedes that road design can do only so much. It doesn’t change the behavior, for instance, of the 15 percent of drivers who will behave badly no matter what the rules are.”

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