Mininum crossing edges

Yesterday, three young people have died in a car crash. Today—another three. From my own observations and based on official news, I have noticed that on average around four people die on the road each day. Yet, nothing has happened that was truly effective in preventing the past to repeat itself. We are going towards demographic extinction, which makes such news all that unbearable. If young people die at such rates and 2/3 of the country are pensioners, it would be hard to imagine who will remain here in the future. But accepting car accidents as something normal, just because they happen every day is everything else but normal. There is still a lot that can be done, but simply isn’t happening.

The reasons for the high frequency of car accidents can be complex—from crappy cars to bad roads with many gaping craters, lack of visibility, improper speed, driving with no license, insufficient practice, unsuitable tires, broken traffic lights, deleted crosswalks, temporary inattention, taking advantage in a situation, overconfidence and false sense of control over the car, impatience and willingness to rush. All these make driving risky, even when the majority will comply with the rules.

But I can’t really understand the kind of thinking that goes like "those kamikazes really deserve it". Few drivers decide in advance to die on the road, so they can’t be called like that. Their behavior is a direct result of what the system tolerates and where they perceive its limits to end. A driver often does what the system suggests, which is why we need infrastructural cues when something goes wrong. Delivering frequent information to the driver about the actual situation on the road is important, yet, from what I have heard, few radio stations here do it in a way that is informative, professional and predictable. Navigation can help people see where they should drive, but without the context of whether there are bumps, spikes or aliens in front of them, they won’t know what to expect. Navigation shouldn’t be made a prerequisite for driving to the extent that people without it feel neglected. Different models can distract differently based on how they look and sound. Anyone who notices something unusual on the road should be able to call an operator for free and describe the situation, so that all other drivers have access to it in real-time. The cost of 1-2 operators per year is negligible compared to the cost of losing thousands of lives. Statistics of all incidents should be kept in order to identify the hotspots in the network, and if possible, to map the data wirelessly on every available navigational device. It’s one thing to anticipate a turn and another to know that it was the last one for many people. But this shouldn’t be presented in a scary way. Placing crushed cars near the road "to scare future drivers" is wrong and the mere appearance of these artefacts is enough to depress people and lead to even more accidents.

Fixing the infrastructure is much easier than fixing the driver’s behavior. And it may be actually cheaper, considering that the effort to educate drivers won’t work unless they can see clear rules and unconditional adherence to them. Instead, we are concentrating mostly on educating the drivers now. This can also be important when the access to leaflets with sample driving situations is only valid for the duration of a course. The instructors are rarely ready to spread this information freely, since they can use it as a sales point in front of new potential drivers. When they charge more for every additional hour of an already expensive course, people try to learn the rules as fast as possible to get the license. But the result of this is very visible. Most of them probably finish the course with both insufficient practice and knowledge. And I don’t see anything wrong or too costly when at least sample traffic situations are accessible and well explained for everyone to learn from. You can’t have clients before you preserve their lives first.

Everything in the infrastructure can be designed and redesigned. Living with the testament that someone else has left behind and being satisfied with how things are will not lead to the change we want to see. The infrastructure can be seen as a graph, whose edges (the roads) can cross many times. Each time this happens, a traffic light or some other sign has to be used (costs), and the risk of accidents increases. The road interconnections themselves can lead to more or less incidents, yet it is much easier to think of the holes on individual roads than to design the big picture.

Today I have read that for the first time in Europe the sales of bikes were higher than those of cars. Maybe a change in our collective perception about the common means of transportation can help us preserve more lives.