The Forgiving Road

 

By Dom Nozzi

January 23, 2002

Why does it seem that Americans have such poor driving skills?

I believe I have at least part of the answer.

For several decades we’ve been designing streets and roads and highways to be forgiving. The “forgiving road” is one that “forgives” the driver if the driver commits a driving error. That is, being reckless, or high-speed, or inattentive no longer is followed by the “punishment” of consequences such as crashing into something. We’ve done enormous forgivingwork pulling buildings, parked cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, trees and other “obstructions” out of the way so that even an unskilled motorist can travel at high speeds without crashing into something.

This was thought to be a way to promote “safety.”

The hidden agenda for many, I believe, is to promote high speed travel by large volumes of car traffic.

Of course, what many of us now realize is that such a design promotes reckless, high-speed, inattentive driving because human psychology is such that a person tends to drive at the highest speed that still feels safe.

Since we tend to be busy and in a hurry, forgiving roads deliver lots of motorists who drive as fast as they can and multi-task while driving (drink coffee, talk on the cell phone, read, etc).

The result is an increase in crashes due to speeding, inattentiveness, and recklessness. Ironically, motorist safety declines, because the forgiving road condition motorists to be less attentive.

Is it any wonder that we are seeing what I believe is a growing number of inept American motorists throughout the nation?

 

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