Several years ago, the European Union launched a pilot project in select cities and regions to see if reducing traffic signs and street markings would lead to better driving habits. Stoplights, stop signs, lane lines, pedestrian crosswalks – all were removed.
One Dutch town scaled back its roadway rules and regulations to just two: “Yield to the right” and “Get in someone’s way and you’ll be towed.”
The idea was that motorists might drive like responsible adults if traffic czars stopped treating them like reckless children.
“The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate,” Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman commented in a 2006 Spiegel Online article.
“We’re losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior,” he added. “The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people’s sense of personal responsibility dwindles.”
No doubt many Texas drivers have noticed that dwindling sense of personal responsibility – in other motorists, at least, if not in themselves. It can certainly be seen in our courts, where lawsuits blaming anyone but the aggrieved plaintiff abound.
In June 2011, for instance, a Jefferson County jury awarded $1,145,000 to the children of Hazel Marie Zapf, to be paid by the Texas Department of Transportation – i.e., the taxpayers – as compensation for their mother’s death in a traffic accident she had caused nearly three years earlier.
On Aug. 20, 2008, Zapf was hit by oncoming traffic as she turned left on Highway 347. Her children allege that she was unable to see the vehicle that collided with her because of uncut grass on the median.
She pulled onto a major highway without being able to see? Yes, that’s correct.
Fortunately for the taxpayers, the Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals in Beaumont recently reversed the judgement and dismissed the case.
It makes you wonder, though. If we got rid of some of our rules and regulations, would people take more responsibility for their actions and be more careful?