A New Traffic Control Device?

Stop signs were invented in 1915. and yield signs in 1950.  Since then, however, no new types of traffic signs have been widely used.

However, Gary Lauder, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, would like to see a new sign be used to replace stop signs that waste time.  Specifically, stops signs at quiet three-way and four-way intersections.  You know that ones where there is no one around and you really want to just slowly roll through them.

Lauder points out that coming to a complete stop at a deserted intersection is wasteful.   He estimates that stop signs at such intersections waste about 10 seconds per car x 3,000 cars per day.  With average wages at $20 per hour, that equals $167 per day of lost time and $60,875 in lost time per year.  And that’s for just one intersection with 3 or 4 stop signs!

But that’ s not all.  Lauder estimates that the 3,000 cars/day costs about .05 cents per car of gas to accelerate following the stop equaling $141/day or $51,363/year.  Adding the time and gas costs makes that one set of signs cost us $112,238/year.  Other costs include pollution, and wear and tear on the car.

So what is Lauder’s solution?  He suggests a new type of traffic control device.  Shaped some-what like a T for “take turns”, and half octagon and half yield triangle.  This sign would be a cross behind a stop sign and a yield sign.  It will require motorists to slow down like a yield sign when approaching it but stop if they see someone already at another such sign at the intersection.

I can tell you that stop signs are a huge source of traffic tickets.  Police officers can basically choose almost any stop sign they want and just sit.  Motorists (often driving safely) are then picked off like fish in a barrel.   Disobeying a stop sign is a 3-point traffic ticket in New York and carries about a $150 fine and surcharge.  While Lauder’s new traffic control device does not work for busy intersections or ones within heavily populated areas, there are plenty of intersections which would work well for this new type of sign.

Lauder’s presentation at the TED conference is below.


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