Friday, March 2, 2007

Emergency Traffic Direction

Braving my way to work this morning after last night's blizzard I noticed that many of the traffic lights were not functioning. Surprisingly, Toronto's otherwise aggressive drivers were handling it quite well - treating it like a four way stop as per the traffic laws in these situations.

But it still reminded me of the power outage of 2002 when several volunteers stepped up to direct traffic. Keeping traffic moving and under control is really important in a crisis like that and I think it helped keep a sense of calm and order for those 24 hours.

Obviously, the police discouraged these traffic volunteers, as they had no real training or authority to do it and could be making things worse. It's a valid point, but there's obviously a need for those kinds of services that the police didn't fill, not to mention a general interest from some sections of the public to volunteer for it.

So that made me think, instead of discouraging people from directing traffic during crises, why not go the opposite route, and train volunteers before a crisis, and issue them a license? They could be given special vests or something to wear, and have the understanding that they'll only direct traffic when called upon the city to do so. They could then be assigned the most important or gridlocked streets to help out in. Sure, they're not being paid, but neither were they when they were volunteered before. I'm sure the kinds of people who volunteered would love being treated like heroes and given semi-official status.

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