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If we dump road signs, do we

Now traffic experts from around the world are hotfooting it to these seven cities where the ‘no-signals’ traffic experiment has drastically reduced the number of accidents.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2007 22:36 IST

At first look, it would seem that seven cities in five countries of the European Union have thrown all caution to the winds. But motorists in these cities have become even more cautious by simply binning traffic signals and signs altogether.

Now traffic experts from around the world are hotfooting it to these seven cities where the ‘no-signals’ traffic experiment has drastically reduced the number of accidents.

The rationale of doing away with signals and signages as a means to regulate traffic is something that Dutch traffic guru Hans Monderman has always prescribed. “The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles,” he states sagely. The latest town to taste success by conducting this experiment is Bohmte in Germany, whose mayor had this interesting brief, “We want to confuse people. When they’re confused, they’ll be more alert and drive carefully.”

Will this work in India’s towns? Will it work on the roads of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, whose traffic nightmares make road rage a behavourial trait? Here in India we don’t bother with traffic signals or symbols. We are as comfortable hauling the motorcycle across the 8-inch-high divider as we are swinging like chimps over railings. And our cities are replete with traffic signs that flash while signifying little if nothing. Even the traffic police retire to their kiosks, their whistling and waving adding to the confusion.

So, shall we also do away with these signs that come in the way of our natural confusion — and anarchic nature. We say no. How else will we taste the thrill of breaking order and embracing chaos?