[This week's Toronto Torah is here!]
Toronto has seen more than a dozen pedestrian deaths in traffic over a period of two weeks, and so, naturally, Toronto police and city council are adding new traffic restrictions. They’re talking about increased ticketing for speeding, lowering the speed limit, cracking down on reckless driving, along with increased ticketing for jaywalking pedestrians and better design of intersections and extending the time for pedestrians to cross.
Some of these ideas have merit – as does the mathematical argument that the spike is just a random fluke – but I think they’re missing a major point.
The point: Frustrated drivers are poor drivers. To increase traffic safety, don’t slow things down –Speed things up!
Alternatively, you could try to calm down the drivers – but I wish you lots of luck.
Think about the guy who is stuck behind a 30-mile-per-driver in the left-hand lane of a highway for a mile, before he finds a way to get around the turtle. Out he zooms, barely looking to make sure he’s not cutting anyone off. Around a corner he flies, anxious about making his appointment and minimally glancing at the foot traffic nearby.
Think about the woman who misses four consecutive lights on Bathurst Street. On the next light she comes to a Yellow, of course she’s going to zoom through. Ditto for the driver sitting in the left-hand turning lane; do you really think he won’t go through as the yellow turns red?
I'm not condoning frustrated driving; the drivers are morally as well as logically wrong. But this is what human emotions do.
It’s one of the reasons that the a Jewish court is not empowered to issue decrees which are beyond the tolerance of the community – גזירה שאין הציבור יכול לעמוד בה. Such decrees frustrate people and weaken loyalty to the system, overall.
Back in October, Toronto officials admitted that their traffic lights are staggered in such a way that traffic is slowed, and people miss lights at consecutive intersections.
A couple of months ago, Toronto officials [correctly] banned the use of hand-held phones, and of the practic of texting, while driving.
We’re now in the heart of winter, and traffic becomes much worse and visibility becomes much worse due to snow and rain and slush.
Back on January 7th, the Globe and Mail reported that Toronto commuting times have spiked in the last two years. "In some cases, average 2008 speeds were less than half of what they were two years earlier. Drivers taking Highway 410 from Bovaird Drive to Highway 403 were crawling at an average of 38 kilometres an hour, down from 71 in 2006; the average speed on the 401 collector from Mississauga Road to Dixie Road was 50 kilometres an hour, down from 95 two years ago."
Not to mention, aggressive city buses are licensed to cut off cars entering and exiting bus stops, thereby frightening drivers and forcing them to swerve, as well as slowing down traffic lanes.
The end result: Frustrated drivers can’t get where they want to go, can’t take care of work in the car [again, correctly!], and can’t see pedestrians or maneuver around them easily. And so the number of accidents skyrockets.
Slowing down cars and cracking down on traffic laws is guaranteed to increase the number of frustrated drivers. I'd advise working to get things up to speed, engineering the lights and patterns to help drivers get where they need to go, so that they’ll feel more capable of waiting out a light, taking a corner slowly, and generally being more accomodating on the road.
[PS Yes, of course, I know that even speeding things up won't solve frustrations entirely; people will simply come to have higher expectations for getting where they want to go. But let's see if we can't improve this, nonetheless.]