Do Traffic Lights Enable Auto-Texters?

One of the concepts I discovered while researching this week’s Geek Life column (which will be published here and in the Yukon News tomorrow) is that of risk compensation.

Risk compensation posits that we accept more risk as we sense a greater degree of safety and security around us.

So, for example, bikers who wear helmets travel faster and more aggressively than those who do not, generally negating the safety element of the helmet. In contrast, bikers who do not wear helmets travel at a slower pace, demonstrate more environmental awareness, and exhibit greater caution when, say, crossing an intersection.

So what effect does risk compensation have on text messaging in motor vehicles (an activity which reduces one’s reaction time by over 30%)?

I wonder if the safety-oriented design of roadways doesn’t give drivers a false sense of security that makes texting seem okay? Does the system of road markings, signs, and traffic lights seem to afford the luxury of textual distraction?

I’m just wondering…

2 thoughts on “Do Traffic Lights Enable Auto-Texters?

  1. There is quite an interesting movement to get rid of traffic signs / markings / etc. whatsoever.

    See this article:,1518,448747,00.html

    “European traffic planners are dreaming of streets free of rules and directives. They want drivers and pedestrians to interact in a free and humane way, as brethren — by means of friendly gestures, nods of the head and eye contact, without the harassment of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs.”

    “A project implemented by the European Union is currently seeing seven cities and regions clear-cutting their forest of traffic signs. Ejby, in Denmark, is participating in the experiment, as are Ipswich in England and the Belgian town of Ostende.”

    Same thinking as yours. I don’t know what happened since — the article is from November 2006, 3 years ago.


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