Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Highway Safety Zones

Y'know what irks me? Highway construction zones.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for safety. But I also want to drive fast. I want to see three digits sometimes.

But on the Interstate (in Illinois, anyway) they put up the 55 mph speed limit signs a miles before the actual work zone, followed by a 45 mph zone hundreds of yards before the actual work zone.

And at the actual work zone they have 5 guys standing around watching one guy hold up a shovel, doing the actual work.

Hey, how about getting some actual work done instead of wasting my tax dollars putting up bogus speed limits?

They also waste a ton of money on PSA spots telling us how important it is to drive 45 mph in construction zones. I say waste a ton of money, because even if the air time is "free", it's only "free" because the government tells the TV station they have to deliver PSA spots or lose their license. The station pays for it, in other words, to the detriment of their bottom line, which raises the cost of their other commercials, which raises the cost of everything. It's a hidden tax. And the production of the commercial isn't free, even though it looks like it could have been.

So they have these commercials about "keeping Daddy safe", or even "Please keep my mommy safe" written in cute first-grader scrawl complete with backward letters and a stick figure drawing. They have raised the fines to thousands of dollars, and jail time if you actually hit a worker.

As I said, I'm all for safety, and the way they do it is unsafe. Why?

Because it's too much window-dressing.

When motorists see a 55 mph sign with no construction in sight, they tend to ignore the speed limit. Posting the signs too far ahead violates Psychological Acceptability:

If the perceived inconvenience associated with system safeguards is higher than the perceived value they allow, users will tend either to circumvent the safeguards or not to use the system. Therefore, measures should be implemented only if:
  1. They can be built in to the system such that following them will be no harder than avoiding them
  2. They are more likely to mitigate a threat than to cause user frustration
Instead, they post the speed limits just ahead of some obstruction such as an overpass or bend in the road, and then post a State Trooper behind the overpass or around the bend to hand out tickets. Yes, officer, you're right, I should keep that guy safe, two miles up the road, by parking my car and pushing it up to the actual work zone so I can say "Hey!" to the the guy with the shovel.

It makes me think that the whole thing, including the smarmy commercials about keeping Daddy safe, is all a money-making scam for the State of Illinois.

But I obey the law, and so should you. After all, it's for the children.

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