Three great ideas for dealing with rubbernecking

When a car driving on the freeway slows down to check out an accident on the side of the road, it's more likely to start a traffic jam, which, once started, is really hard to unwind. Traffic jams impose terrible time costs on all of us, so the rubbernecker's individual decision carries a significant externality. Currently highway/police/accident cleanup organizations don't seem to really care about rubbernecking, or traffic jams. If they did, here are three ways to stop the problem: 1) Bring curtains + stands to the scene of any accident. Curtains fold into a small space, and stands are collapsible. Rubberneckers might still slow down, but would have nothing to look at, and after a few times of slowing to look at curtains, would probably just continue driving. 2) Bring two giant cameras and a sign to the scene of any accident. Focus one camera on the gruesome accident and the other on traffic. The sign reads: "HUGE FINES FOR RUBBERNECKERS: DON'T SLOW DOWN." The accident footage is then posted to the Caltrans website, so that rubberneckers can indulge themselves later. Anyone that slows to look at the accident is given a huge fine, matching the external cost of slowing down. 3) Privatize highways. Roads cost money, but everyone can drive on them for free. By charging a toll the cost of using the road will reflect the price of building the road. Road operators know that traffic jams decrease the amount of toll money they collect, because cars aren't moving as fast, so they have an incentive to clear up accidents, flat tires and other problems as soon as possible. They could also impose fines for rubbernecking.

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2 thoughts on “Three great ideas for dealing with rubbernecking

  1. kburke

    My head – I get bored during traffic jams. I’ve read about externalities and privatizing roads and stuff.

    Reply

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