December 12, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 49

With straight road, more risky driving

When did the Haines Highway become so dangerous? Why is our Mayor looking to other Southeast mayors to support its realignment despite legitimate concerns about negative impacts to fish habitat, the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and the aesthetics of the Haines Scenic Byway?

Driving any road, no matter how straight, is inherently dangerous. But it’s not the road; it’s usually us that have “taken lives and crippled travelers.”

We drive drunk or ride with people who are, we drive too fast, we talk on cell phones or to other passengers, and sometimes our luck just runs out. A straight superhighway will only create a false sense of security and cause people to drive faster.

In the book “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why,” Laurence Gonzales writes of “risk homeostasis theory” research that says that if we perceive conditions as less risky, we’ll take more risk. “When antilock brakes were introduced, authorities expected the accident rate to go down, but it went up. People perceived that driving was safer with antilock brakes, so they drove more aggressively.”

Heavily used highways and bridges around the nation are in need of serious repairs. It doesn’t make fiscal sense to do major realignment on a safe-enough and perfectly sound road that is used by so few people.

Sharon Resnick