Thursday, May 31, 2007

Talk of the Town: "Drivers must get used to photo radar"

Shorter Margaret Brown: If you don't like photo radar, you must be a criminal.

I get the argument. It's the same one the Current Resident uses to justify warrantless wiretaps. But let's not get all slippery-slopey, now.

I'd rather set this in context next to the roundabout debate. Here we have two quite different approaches to the same problem, that of reducing injuries at intersections. One maintains the 'traditional' method for handling the traffic while threatening more uniform enforcement -- in fact enforcement by machine. The other alters the traffic pattern and maintains the 'traditional' enforcement regime.

Based on the numbers we're seeing in the Courier, both seem to be working to reduce injuries, primarily because both systems are slowing traffic. In the first case drivers are reducing speed out of awareness of the higher probability of a fine, in the other because the configuration makes it impractical to do otherwise.

The Glassford Hill Gauntlet actually does nothing to prevent a high-speed T-boning, it rather relies on the effect on marginal drivers to produce a statistical reduction in injuries.

The roundabout, on the other hand, sets a physical barrier across the intersection, which is far more effective in changing the behavior of even the most impaired driver. I'm not saying a T-boning is impossible in a roundabout, but it is statistically negligible.

In a way this difference of approach can be framed as conservative vs. progressive. One preserves a system that doesn't work well and calls for tougher, depersonalized enforcement. The other studies the problem as a system and adjusts the system to work better, reducing the need for enforcement.

Both approaches are drawing huge amounts of criticism, probably from different kinds of people. For me it comes down to a question of what sort of community I want to live in.


leftturnclyde said...

its amazing to me how quickly people buy into the whole you must be a criminal/terrorist/communist if you oppose drug testing ,photo radar,warrentless wiretapping,country music,etc..
The Photo Radar we have here is effective but lets look at what it actually is ..a way for a foreign company to make money off of folks who are running red lights in the US.Ask any one who's gotten tagged and you will discover that most of them have received multiple tickets for what is essentialy one traffic violation.Its like a license to print money for this Australian company!
If we're gonna keep these things lets at least keep all the money here and do some good for the community

coyoteradiotheater said...

Can anyone explain why roundabouts so freak out Americans? Is there an equivelent thing that we negotiate with ease that freaks out Joe EU?

Steven Ayres said...

Good question. I can't say with any authority, but I'll bet more than a few tourists have left permanent hand impressions in their rented steering wheels while negotiating the Pasadena Freeway in the middle of the afternoon.