There was an item in the UK news the other day.
It didn’t surprise me in the least, as I have long held the view that a lot of these “safety” laws have the opposite effect from their intentions.
People take risks. It’s part of our genetic makeup. After all, if no one took any risks, evolution would never have occurred and we’d still be living in the ooze. Naturally over the years we have discovered such trivial fact that if one jumps off a tall cliff then one is likely to be splattered all over the bottom of said cliff. Or that trying to breath underwater isn’t such a clever idea after all. So where we have discovered risks we created certain safeguards. But with the safeguard in place, our natural inclination is to push that boundary of risk a little further.
Take for example a skateboard. Jump onto it at the top of a hill and the chances are that you’ll end up in A&E. Wrap yourself in a steel box, with four widely spread wheels, a steering mechanism and a set of brakes and you’ll happily hare down that hill without a bother in the world. The result of using this steel box [for the sake of brevity, I’ll call it a “car”] we may have reduced the actual risks, but have vastly increased risk taking, which is slightly different.
I have long maintained that seat belts and crash helmets are an actual danger as they give a false sense of security and thereby increase risk taking. The case of the 20mph limit illustrates this perfectly – what’s the betting that pedestrians are far less cautious about crossing the road because the limit has given an illusion of safety?
Traffic lights are another case in point. You’re bombing along and come to a set of lights. They’re showing green so you don’t even reduce speed because you have ownership of the road. If someone pulls out in front, you haven’t a chance. Come to a crossroads where everyone has equal priority and I guarantee you’d be a lot more cautious!
I spent quite a few summers in Sarlat in France. It is an incredibly beautiful Medieval town with very narrow twisting streets barely wide enough to take a car. The main street is around a quarter of a mile long and runs straight through the heart of the town. To the best of my knowledge there is no speed limit on it [apart from the standard town limit] yet it has no footpaths. It is a mixed street in the sense that pedestrians and cars have more or less equal right of way. So you could be driving along and a mob of tourists will wander straight into your path without a care in the world. As a result, both drivers and pedestrians accord each other equal rights, as they have equal “ownership” of the area. I don’t think I [or anyone else for that matter] ever drove down that street at anything over around 10mph.
Introduce “safety” laws and you introduce a false sense of security and therefore greater risk taking..
Far better to let Nature take its course.