Priority is the fatal flaw at the heart of the traffic control system. It makes roads dangerous by imposing unequal rights and responsibilities.
In other walks of life, we take it in turns. If you barged in front of a cashpoint queue, you’d cause a riot, but on the road, we accept such delinquent conduct without question. The rule of priority licenses main road drivers to ignore side road traffic and pedestrians, regardless who was there first or how long they might have been waiting.
Drivers trying to cross main roads such as the A358 face interminable waits and intolerable danger as streams of fast-moving traffic come at them from opposite directions.
Priority produces a “need” for traffic lights – to break the priority streams of traffic so others can cross. Thus is most traffic control is an expensive exercise in self-defeat, a vain bid to solve the lethal conflicts generated by the original sin, the cancer, of priority.
The solution? Remove priority, the underlying cause of our problems on the road. This would remove the “need” for lights, and the need for speed, enabling everyone to approach carefully and filter more or less in turn.
Not only is self-control safer, it’s over twice as efficient. Our traffic lights-off trial in Portishead went permanent after journey times fell by over half with no loss of safety. The transformation took place even without the benefit of re-education to help people unlearn a lifetime’s bad habits instilled by the anti-social rules of the road. What could be achieved in terms of improved safety, efficiency and quality of life through culture change, roadway redesign and legal reform is unlimited.