Traffic Control: the Need for Change

Topics: Congestion pricing, Traffic congestion, Road Pages: 12 (3863 words) Published: October 8, 1999
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...
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