Off Topic

I think, therefore I harm

Responsible Citizens [My Two Cents]

Beginning February 11th, it will be illegal for a person under 18 to visit a tanning room in the province of Québec, Canada. Artificial tanning, just like a natural sun bath, is risky. Tanning leads to premature skin aging and cancer. With an estimate of 2 to 5% of the teens visiting tanning rooms, our good government decided to act quickly. So, they enacted a law to force tanning room owners to ban the teens.

But what will prevent these people from rushing to tanning rooms once they reach adulthood? How will they know of the risks?

For about the same price and effort as writing and enacting a law, why didn’t they launch an educational campaign? What about a TV ad warning about the risks of visiting tanning rooms? Or a pamphlet distributed in schools?

Are we so stupid that, given the right information, we cannot be trusted for our own choices? I think information is more efficient and lasting than a law, and I’m pretty sure we are able to take the right decisions by our own good judgment.

No SignsOfficials in the 45,000-inhabitant town of Drachten, in the Netherlands, found an original mean to fix a traffic problem which existed for years. The streets are devoid of any traffic lights, signs or road markings. The experiment, known as the Drachten experiment, began over just a few intersections in 2006, but the results were counter-intuitive and the experiment was expanded to the entire town center. The annual average accidents went down from 8 to just one.

The theory is that drivers would pay more attention to their surrounding if they didn’t have anything to tell them what to do. Drivers began driving slower and paying more attention to pedestrians and other cars as they approach intersections. Not only did the number of accidents dropped significantly, the few remaining accidents cause less serious injuries. Another major problem was also fixed, as traffic jams became a thing of the past. Now with a smooth traffic flow, drivers are less stressed and in a better mood, resulting in them showing more patience and being more courteous.

The experiment proved so successful that several European cities now adopted the philosophy, and many more considering the change.

Traffic lights and signs give a false sense of security, as drivers relying on them don’t pay attention to anything else. Without these features, they now rely on their own senses and use their own responsibilities. Drivers, left to their own decisions and judgments, are better and safer.

By taking away our responsibilities, governments are making us irresponsible. Many of the laws enacted by our governments with the aim of protecting us are in fact removing responsibilities from us, making us more dangerous toward ourselves and others. Stop cutting our liberties and begin informing us.

In Auckland, the traffic lights went black (left). You can see a comparison with a normal day, with the traffic lights working (right).

When I launched this blog, I had one aim: To make you think, by sharing knowledge and opinions. The very few who followed me from the beginning will tell you, I have been missing that goal with my infrequent and disorganized posts. However, my secret 2013 resolution was to rethink this blog, aim for the goal, and shoot (lame hockey reference).

You just read the first of a regular column, if such a noun applies to a post on a blog. Based on actuality, a current event or another source of inspiration, but always applying to everyone, no matter where you live in the world, I will share my opinion with you once a week. Not because I believe my opinion is better than yours, otherwise I wouldn’t call it an opinion. But because I want to make you think. I hope to have you start a debate with your relatives, your friends and your coworkers (though I would advise to wait until lunch break). Let’s change the world, one debate at a time. I think, therefore I harm.

Since I don’t consider my opinion as the ultimate truth, I would love to hear your own voice on the subject discussed in the comment area below. All comments will be approved, no matter your opinion or how much I agree or disagree with it. I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it (Voltaire).

When I settled on My Two Cents as the title for this column, I was obviously referring to the classic American expression, usually used to introduce an opinion which the speaker believes to be of low value, or to lessen the impact of such opinion.

However, I had forgotten one issue. In March of 2012, the Canadian government minted the very last 1-cent coin, also known as a penny, or as we call it in Québec, le sous noir (literally black cent). They initially planned on beginning phasing it out in November, but this was delayed by three months. Starting yesterday, February 4th, banks are not providing merchants with pennies anymore, and thus stores have stopped giving them as change. Instead, bills are rounded to the nearest nickel.

Following the recommendation, an amount of two cents is therefore rounded down to zero, the actual value of my opinions.


7 comments on “Responsible Citizens [My Two Cents]

  1. heretherebespiders
    February 5, 2013

    Ireland still has 1 and 2 cent coins! Well, the EU does. I’ll be sticking around for your opinions!
    Now, to the topic at hand – here we have roundabouts or traffic circles. The only time I ever get confused, or have a long wait, is when the roundabout is so enormous that they added traffic lights to it! Sometimes there is a backup of cars in Castlebar, but I think that’s bad design – the left lane can only go left so the other three directions all have to queue up in the right lane.

    The only other place I’d ever encountered a roundabout was in Akron, Ohio, and it was scary as no one seemed to know what to do. And, yes – we all had to slow down to figure it out!

    • Tom Duhamel
      February 5, 2013

      Hi Spiders, and thanks for your comment.

      Roundabouts are somewhat new in Québec. They were almost existent just a decade ago, and suddenly boomed in most municipalities in the last few years. Young drivers learned about these at driving schools, but a lot of people are still confused or don’t know how to use these correctly, not keeping the correct lane or not noticing there are lanes at all, and not signaling which exit they are going to take. But I believe that, when used correctly, these are a very efficient mean to replace traffic lights.

      In Montréal, the metropolis, we have a few which were badly designed, similar to your description. Too many lanes, so it’s confusing where you are supposed to go (and we all know how uneasy it is to change lane while driving in a circle, as you don’t have a good sight over the other cars), and traffic lights right in the middle (which you obviously cannot see in advance). These ones have no real purpose. They certainly don’t improve traffic flow.

      I never understood why Europe implemented both the 1 and 2 cent coins, even more so as Canada was already considering retiring the penny back in the time when the Euro was instated. But it seems that some people think a 1 cent amount to be too large, as slot machines in some European casinos accept half-centime as the minimum wager. It must be very exciting to hit a Royal Flush and win… 1.25 Euro.

  2. Dianda
    February 5, 2013

    I’m surprised to read about Drachten.

    • Tom Duhamel
      February 5, 2013

      Hi Dianda, I’m betting you will pay a visit there when you get your driving license 🙂

      I’ve only known of it a few weeks ago, and it seemed like an impressive argument for this subject. I don’t think I should have known about it though, traffic lights appear much longer now that I know of the alternative.

      Throughout my research, I found that a few other Dutch towns are currently experimenting with this concept. Are you wasting time in traffic? Talk to your representative 🙂

      • Dianda
        February 6, 2013

        I’m going to Drachten on Friday to fit new clothes for work.
        It’s only 20/30 minutes away from where I like!

        • Tom Duhamel
          February 6, 2013

          Oh really? You’d be an angel if you took pictures for me. Pictures of… well… nothing. No red lights, not signs, no markings. I’ve tried to see what it looked like, but I found next to nothing, except for a few pictures taken during the initial test phase.

          • Dianda
            February 7, 2013

            I’ll see what I can do! 😉

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