With that, I guess it would hardly come as a surprise if I said that I hate speed cameras and curse at them each time they seemingly cause the traffic congestion I'm stuck in. Yet deep down, I know that speed cameras have a role to play in road safety. Some stretches of roads are way too dangerous to travel at breakneck speeds and it is far better that we all put up with a traffic slowdown compared to people dying or getting injured from accidents. And that pretty much sums my attitude to speed cameras; I hate them but I grudgingly accept that they serve a purpose.
So it piqued my interest, when I recently came across an anecdote in a book that described an interesting and speed camera-less way of ensuring that motorists keep to a safe traveling speed on dangerous stretches of roads. Surprisingly, all it requires is some paint!
The road in question is Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and for years, a famous S-curve along the road claimed the lives of many accident victims. Some even call it the "Dead Man's Curve". In 2006, the city adopted a novel solution that has drastically reduced the number of accidents through the clever use of road paint to create an illusion that caused drivers to subconsciously slow down. Horizontal stripes were painted across the width of the road. These stripes are not strips or bumps that forcefully slowed down the cars. Rather, as the stripes got closer to the curve, the space between each stripe would become smaller and smaller. While driving along, a driver would get the sensation that the car was actually speeding up even if it was traveling at the same speed all along. Instinctively, he would tap on the brakes to slow down!
Personally, this idea really speaks to me. It is elegant, cheap and it only affects drivers at the most dangerous parts. This is a solution that LTA should definitely be looking into!
References: Thaler & Sunstein, Nudge, 2008, Yale University Press