Traffic Control: The Need For Change


As the population of the United States dramatically increases and the
number of vehicles on the nation\'s roads and highways skyrockets, new methods of
traffic control and organization have become necessary, by utilizing new methods
of transportation or by revising the current system. In the past 15 years, the
number of vehicles on American roads has increased 41.9%, the number of licensed
drivers has increased 29.3%, but the size of the general population has only
risen 15.9% (Clark 387-404). Between the years 1975 and 1985, the number of
miles driven by Americans rose 34.6%, but the number of miles of roads increased
by only 4.4% (Doan 64).
Cars and other vehicles are an enormous cost to society, costing between
$300 billion and $700 billion per year. These expenses are caused mainly by
traffic accidents, traffic jams, and the environmental hazards created by the
large number of vehicles on the road.
Traffic accidents account for one of the major reasons that the current
techniques of traffic control need revision. Traffic jams, along with broken
cars and the lack of alternate routes, account for one half of the traffic
congestion in the United States (Clark 387-404). Although the number of traffic
accidents in the United States has slowly decreased over the past several years,
it is still alarmingly high. In 1990, approximately 7 deaths occurred for every
10,000 people in the United States due to traffic accidents (Wallich 14).
In addition, traffic jams also demonstrate the need for better methods
of traffic management. Due to both the increase of women in the work force and
the expansion of businesses to the suburbs, traffic jams have increased
dramatically over the past few years (Koepp 55). As a consequence of traffic
jams, the American population was delayed 722 million hours in 1985 (55),
costing the average citizen approximately $800 (Doan 64). In 1984, drivers,
while waiting in their cars during traffic jams, used three billion gallons of
gasoline (Koepp 55). This figure represents four percent of the total amount of
gasoline used during that year (55).
Highways themselves cause a large number of traffic jams in America
today. Of the 3.88 million miles of roads in the United States, 92% of them were
built before 1960 (Koepp 54). The government has failed to increase the number
of roads and highways proportional to the extraordinary increase of vehicles on
the road. On major highways in Los Angeles, the most congested city in the
United States, the average highway speed is 37 miles per hour, and is expected
to drop to 17 miles per hour by the year 2000 (Doan 65).
Problems with traffic congestion arise not only in the United States but
also in Europe. In the spring of 1992 on the Nuremberg-Berlin motorway, a 70
kilometer traffic jam occurred during a holiday weekend (“Jam tomorrow” S15-S17).
At a standstill for up to 18 hours, many drivers fell asleep and had to be
awakened by police officers when the traffic jam began to disperse (S15-S17).
Hazards to the environment also prove the necessity for more worthwhile
methods of traffic administration.
As many more vehicles make use of United States roads, the amount of
poisonous hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere steadily increases. On the
average, one out of every four Americans has problems breathing during the peak
summer months due to the excess of smog in the atmosphere (Carpender 69).
Studies have shown that automobiles produce the majority of this smog (69). This
dramatic increase exists as one of the major reasons for the creation of the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, the same year that the Clean Air
Act passed through Congress (Clark 387-404). As the number of automobiles kept
increasing, the emissions standards became more rigid in 1980, especially in
California (387-404). Governments even passed laws requiring large businesses to
provide better and more environmentally safe methods of transportation for their
employees (387-404).
Noise pollution from the large number of automobiles on the road also
contributes to the devastation of the environment. While traveling on the
nation\'s many expressways, one cannot avoid seeing large, unsightly sound
barriers that are constructed between busy highways and large housing
developments. Also, complaints about noise pollution have increased 390% since
1978 (“Noisy Parkers” 63).
Traffic problems also contribute to economic problems in today\'s society.
In 1987, transportation in the United States cost a total of $792 billion (Koepp
55). This figure represents 17.6% of the gross national product, hence it is not
difficult to see that transportation has a major effect on economics (55).
Despite the many problems that exist with the present systems of
transportation and traffic control, numerous solutions