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									Press Release
20 September 2010

Expert claims information overload is endangering road users
Delegates attending the annual Automotive Forum, organised by the Irish Motoring Writers
Association (IMWA) and sponsored by Semperit Tyres, heard how overloading the motorist with traffic
lights and road signs can increase road crashes in urban areas and that handing more responsibility to
the driver can result in a spectacularly positive change in behaviour.

An audience from the motoring, town planning and other sectors came together today at Newman
House in Dublin to hear two expert international speakers talk about how are our streetscapes are
over-regulating us as drivers, and how car technology is changing the role of the driver.

Urban design expert Ben Hamilton-Baillie from Bristol pointed to safety, economic and quality-of-life
benefits in better reconciling traffic movements with public spaces in towns and cities. He is a
proponent of „shared space‟, part of which involves removing traffic lights, road signs, road markings
and other regulatory devices from our streetscapes, and placing more responsibility with the driver.
Drawing on pilot schemes from across Europe, he revealed how road-related injuries actually fall
when drivers are given more freedom to drive at speeds that are appropriate to the environment. He
cited the example of Makkinga in Holland, where a total removal of all traffic lights, road signs and
markings led to an improvement in both traffic flow and road safety.

The concept is rooted in a belief in human intelligence. “Presume the driver is an idiot, and he will act
like an idiot,“ explained Hamilton-Baillie, “remove a lot of the senseless signs and he will know how to
act. Take away speed signs and you will witness how uncomfortable drivers are exceeding the speed
which establishes itself as the norm.”

He spoke of county councils in the UK removing centre lines markings from roads, and seeing a
reduction in speed and accidents as a result. He would like to see such developments in Ireland. In
addition, pilot schemes which involved turning off traffic lights have been made permanent, as
congestion was seen to reduce significantly. He cited the transformational change in the behaviour of
taxi drivers where shared space is practiced, such as the „accident-free‟ Seven Dials in London, in
contrast to nearby Shaftesbury Avenue.

Car technology could render traffic lights redundant in any case, according to James Remfrey,
Director of Technology Intelligence at Continental. Telematics technology is enabling the car to
communicate with other cars, alleviating the need for such infrastructure. Human error is at the root of
95% of car accidents, he explained, highlighting the slowness of drivers in reacting to emergency
situations. 40% of drivers do not brake in a collision, for example. Aging drivers is a growing issue of

The driver assistance systems of Continental and others save 7,000 lives per years by intervening to
prevent a driver leaving a lane (typically brought about by fatigue or distraction), driving into a car in
front (Volvo‟s Collision avoidance system), or steering out of control (ESP). Traffic Sign Recognition
can read speed signs and warn the driver to reduce speed accordingly, while BlindSpot technology
assists drivers when changing lane. Such features, already present in high-end models, will be
standard equipment across all cars in the future.

Michael Moroney, Chairman, Irish Motoring Writers Association pointed out the relevance of the
Forum, in particular given the plethora of road signs and speed limits in Ireland. In a 500m stretch
approaching Newlands Cross, for example, 23 official signs were in evidence.

Paddy Murphy, of sponsors Semperit Tyres, welcomed the forum as “an annual event that helps to
spread knowledge and promote discussion in relation to motoring and its wider implications for our
society. Today‟s debate was in keeping with that mission.”

The event was chaired by RTE‟s Paul Cunningham.

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            For further information contact Pearse O'Loughlin at Cullen Communications on
   (01) 668 9099 or 087 629 9751 Fax: (01) 668 9872; email:

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