Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Incentives matter: safe cars file

Tim Harford wants more dangerous cars:
The trouble with cars these days is that they’re too safe. Of course, I don’t write as a driver; I write as a cyclist. Drivers quite reasonably feel that they’re so well protected by their seatbelts, bull-bars, airbags, ejector seats and the rest that they can afford to take risks. Cyclists and pedestrians are the ones on the receiving end.

We need more dangerous cars. A spear mounted on the steering wheel, pointing at the driver’s heart, would do nicely. Cheese wire instead of seat belts would work too. Of course, these innovations would skewer and slice the typical crash-test dummy, but drivers aren’t crash-test dummies. Give them the right incentive and they will drive more carefully, to the benefit of the cyclists and pedestrians.
This, of course, is just the Peltzman effect.

1 comment:

Ed Snack said...

I believe his plaint is misdirected. As a keen cyclist, I find the problem is not risk taking per se, but simple inattention or failure to notice. The biggest danger is the driver who looks right at you but fails to actually register that you are there, and no threats from inside the vehicle would make any effective difference.

Maybe a technological fix, a bike attached device that would signal your presence to a receiver in a vehicle that would give an audible and possibly visible (Head up display inside the windscreen ?) warning that a bicycle was near.

I've had too many close calls from vehicles pulling out in front of me, the drivers get to the intersection, look left, look right, look right at you, then pull out straight in front of you. And on the occasion that one has stopped to apologize the usual comment is that "they just didn't see you" despite you being right out there in front of them usually wearing pretty hi-vis clothing.