## Wednesday, 12 September 2007

### STOP SIGNS CAUSE ACCIDENTS?

That is the thesis that is sweeping through some town councils in Holland and Germany. Routers reports:

A town council in Germany has decided the best way of improving road safety is to remove all traffic lights and stop signs downtown.
From September 12, all traffic controls will disappear from the center of the western town of Bohmte to try to reduce accidents and make life easier for pedestrians.
In an area used by 13,500 cars every day, drivers and pedestrians will enjoy equal right of way, Klaus Goedejohann, the town's mayor, told Reuters.

The idea is called “shared space” and has already been tried by the city of Drachten in Holland, where it is reported that accidents have been reduced “significantly.” (I am reminded of my recent “How Many is That?” blog.)

For over five years I have held fast to the opinion that a student in my school (and in most others) was more likely to be harmed by a fire drill than by a fire. It is a matter of simple mathematics. Not one person has been harmed in any school I work at by a fire, and I have worked in schools for thirty years. Have they been spared because they were so well prepared by the drills that in the real fires they were able to exit safely? NO!, They were spared because in that time there has been one fire, a smoldering trash can that set off the smoke alarm but never actually burst into flame. In seven years at my present school one alarm went off when girls celebrating a birthday lit candles on a cup cake and the smoke alarm went off (had to be a very delicate setting).
In that thirty years as an educator, I have had something like ten fire drills a year, at no less than ten minutes each. Do the math. 30 years times ten drills is 300 fire drills. With an average of 600 students per school that makes 180,000 congested mass exits and entrances from a building. To avoid ???? zero fires. I teach HS kids, actually very smart ones. They are the best and brightest in our school. Is it really reasonable to presume that they would fail to extract them selves from the building in the event of a real fire?

So what is it that makes people feel that they need to make rules for other people to follow? Somehow, one envisions council members sitting around their tables discussing the carnage that may ensue if people actually cross the street where ever they want to, drive across the road when it looks safe, rather than when the light turns green. By instituting rules, we are able to avoid the risk that employees will use common sense. And so, we come to a situation in which, before your 747 jumbo cruiser can take off on your well-earned holiday to some far-away tropical isle, we pause, while stewards and stewardesses stand in the aisles to show us how to hook a safety belt.
STOP