CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Rumble Strips and Risk Compensation

Reader Richard sends along a link to this article, from the Raleigh News and Observer, on distracted driving:

“Sometimes I will zone out and forget I’m driving,” said Tyler, 23. “If I’m on the phone talking about something that takes up all my focus, I’m looking straight ahead – but not even seeing what’s there.”

(as an aside you can read in depth about this phenomenon, and others, this spring). But to continue:

Her dad, Buckley Strandberg, worries that she will never curb her dangerous habit.

But Buckley, an insurance executive, confesses his own weakness for Blackberry and Bluetooth. He feels compelled to conduct business by phone and e-mail on long, lonely drives between his offices in Rocky Mount and Nags Head.

“That’s more than two hours,” said Buckley, 49. “I’m not just going to sit there in the car. I get a lot of work done on that straight, dead stretch of U.S. 64.

“And if I run off the road, there are rumble strips that divert me back onto the road. That has happened occasionally. They seem to work, those rumble strips.”

Apart from the irony of an insurance executive engaging in risky behavior (I suppose the A.I.G. fiasco showed that insurers are hardly immune from not properly anticipating risk), I was particularly intrigued by the last sentence in the excerpt.

I had long taken shoulder rumble strips (the so-called “Sonic Nap Alert Patterns” debuted on the Pennsylvania turnpike) as a passive, essentially invisible safety device that one would only become aware of in moments of emergency and wouldn’t actually influence one’s self-selected level of what they considered safe driving activity. In other words, people’s driving wouldn’t change simply because of the presence of rumble strips (unlike other forms of risk compensation, say, driving a vehicle in which one is seated higher), and that SNAPs made people safer without making them feel safer — an important distinction, to my mind, in traffic safety.

But I may have to reconsider this.

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 29th, 2010 at 11:18 am and is filed under Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “Rumble Strips and Risk Compensation”

  1. Alan Says:

    You know, sometimes in Raleigh nights get long and there’s nothing to do, so I get my Kalashnikov and fire a few hundred rounds into the air. No harm, no foul, right?

  2. Michael Says:

    What Alan said. If I kill someone, I’ll be doing it with a car rather than with something else, so it will automatically be classified as just an ‘oops’ and no big deal.

  3. Richard Says:

    Sounds like it’s time to take away somebody’s license.

  4. Kevin Love Says:

    How han a 23-year-old afford to total three cars in two years? Who is paying for this?

    And why no criminal negligence charges?

  5. Josh R Says:

    Money quote.

    “And yet it’s so hard to pull myself away from doing it. Because it’s a fast-paced, get-it-all-done society. Work, work, work, 24-7.”

    No asshole, you choose to make your life that way, and you choose to put your type A obsessive multi tasking above the safety of other human beings. There are ways to make long drives better without distracting yourself. Audio books, music, or just using the time to “be in the moment” and relax are all good

  6. Jack Says:

    Sounds like the problem of prioritizing runs in the family, perhaps hereditary?

    Meanwhile a new study from the Highway Loss Data Institute found that the rate of crashes before and after the law (requiring hands-free use of cell phones) took effect has not significantly changed. Some experts say the largest danger is “cognitive capture,” which means drivers are blind to driving cues because they’re consumed by conversations, particularly emotional ones.

    The Governors Highway Safety Assn. issued a statement saying the research “raises as many questions as it answers.”

  7. John Says:

    So, the guy is essentially driving by feel rather than sight, at times. Maybe it’s the wave of the future. Maybe they need to move the rumble strips into the lane a little. Then make it part of the driving test to drive without looking. Cover the windshield. No headlights needed at night, either. It could work.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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