NMA E-Newsletter #136: Predictability

A common theme aimed at explaining at least a portion of the country’s economic problems is that there is a lack of predictability when it comes to taxes, regulations, laws, executive policies, and international affairs.

As a result, the people, the companies, and local governments that could step up to the plate with investments, projects, and jobs remain frozen in place, afraid or unable to act.

These issues are at play in the NMA corner of the world as well. Here are a few common examples:

We drive down a road and see a speed limit sign.

  • Is that really a reasonable number?
  • Is that a number that reflects the normal traffic speeds in this area?
  • Is that number enforced, or is there a large leeway between it and the number actually enforced?
  • Is that number enforced equally among older drivers and teenagers; white and black drivers, drivers of sports cars and bland sedans; or residents and non-residents?
  • Is that number based on sound traffic engineering principles or is it the product of a political process aimed to appease roadside residents? 

The truth of the matter is that we seldom know. The result is erratic traffic flow, conflicts between drivers, wasted fuel, increased vehicle wear and tear, and discriminatory enforcement.

Further down that same road we encounter a traffic light. The light turns yellow.

  • Can we continue and clear the intersection before the crossing traffic receives the green signal?
  • If we’re not sure and we stop abruptly will we be hit by the vehicle behind us?
  • If we pass through one controlled intersection is the next controlled intersection timed to allow our passage if we adjust to the normal traffic flow, the speed limit, or accelerate to avoid a needless delay?

We could continue with a host of other examples that cry out for predictability; school zones, construction zones, curve warnings, and stop sign locations being a sample, but the point is made.

When it comes to their application, our supposedly “uniform” traffic laws and traffic control devices are anything but.

For the most part there are solid proven criteria for posting signs, setting limits, and guiding traffic, but adherence to those criteria is the exception to the rule.

The result is we have no predictability, and all the negatives that that imparts.

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