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Anti-Gawker shield

Emergency workers should be heard, not seen
  (+42, -2)(+42, -2)(+42, -2)
(+42, -2)
  [vote for,

This device would be a collapsible, windproof, opaque fence which could be set-up around traffic accident scenes to deter The Gawker Effect. The fencing could be stencilled with cautionary advice, (i.e. "Warning, accident scene. Keep moving")

The net result would be safer and more efficient movement of traffic around rush hour accident scenes.

IBBen, Sep 05 2000

(?) Unjamming Traffic http://www.halfbake...Unjamming_20Traffic
More efficient movement of traffic, in theory. [centauri, Sep 05 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Gawk-cam http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Gawk-cam
Another approach to the problem. [egnor, Sep 05 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Traffic Waves http://www.eskimo.c...affic/traffic1.html
A discussion of the similarities between traffic patterns and fluid dynamics. [sera, Sep 05 2000, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Screens hide crashes from curious drivers http://www.boston.c...om_curious_drivers/
Baked! Real life usage of Anti-Gawker shield [flicken, Feb 23 2005]

Sitebloc http://sitebloc.com/aboutus.htm
...Our original goal was to help decrease congestions at local traffic sites by providing a way to prevent the "lookey loos" and "gawkers" from slowing down to view an accident, putting themselves and others at risk. [CwP, Jul 15 2008]

US Patent- Traffic collision cover - note: site slow to load http://www.patentst...26/description.html
US Patent 7290826 - Traffic collision cover [CwP, Jul 15 2008]


       In some areas they have "accident investigation sites". It's a little loop off the freeway; when you get in a fender-bender, you're supposed to drive there and *then* look at your damaged car, swap insurance information, etc.. It's behind a fence, and the idea is to avoid rubbernecking, and give people a relatively safe place (the shoulder is dangerous).
egnor, Sep 06 2000

       I used to wish for just such a device when I commuted by car into town rush hour. I lost count of the number of times I was held up for ages going south only to discover the accident was in the north bound lanes. Simply everyone slowing down to see as much as they could.   

       Unfortunately the situation has worsened. The police here now treat motor accident scenes very seriously if injuries occur, and if a death is involved they have been known to shut down whole stretches of the main motorway, treating it as a major crime scene.   

       P.S. Anyone suggesting that all would be well if only more people take public transport, I'll track you down and throw up in your lap.
Alcin, Sep 08 2000

       If you really want to speed up traffic passing the accident site, don't stencil the screen with "accident site," but with "construction workers at work -- reduce speed."   

       Seriously, though, I thought of submitting a similar idea recently, but I thought that setting up such a screen would distract the response team (police, paramedics, firefighters) from jobs that are more urgent. Or would you want to add a dedicated vehicle and personnel to the response team?
beauxeault, Sep 08 2000

       Are you sure that people are gawking? If a clump of cars slowed down enough just when the accident occurred, because of the startling nature of such an event, it could take quite some time for that clump to dissipate. Haven't you ever been in a jam, only to find NOTHING at the point of the clearage?   

       Are people slow because they gawk, or do they gawk because it's slow?
centauri, Sep 08 2000

       They slow down to gawk. It's easy to blame all the "rubberneckers", but it's hard not to look, and when you're looking it's hard not to slow down, just an eensy little bit, not so much by using the brakes as by not accelerating as much as normal...   

       The real issue is that even a minor slowdown has a major effect on everyone behind you.   

       Automatic freeway driving is certainly not a new idea; there are plenty of plans for such things. Advantages include the ability to combine cars into "trains" that follow very closely, reduce wind resistance and allow more efficient use of roadway space. Disadvantages include the fact that nobody in their right mind would ever trust such a computer-controlled, real-time, life-safety-critical system when its component parts are in an unknown state of repair and maintained by morons. (Sure, mandatory inspections and maintenance and certification and ... why aren't we just taking the bus again?)   


       Here's the perfect solution to rubbernecking: use double-decker freeways, with opposite directions occupying different levels. Neither can see the other. No gawking, no slowdown, no movable screens needed. Just a few minutes ago there was a serious accident (and horrible traffic jam) on the upper deck of Seattle's Alaskan Way double-decker viaduct (Route 99), but the lower deck is racing along just fine, completely unaware of the drama above.
egnor, Sep 08 2000

       Why do we have double decker highways on landfill in an earthquake zone, again?   

       Would anyone agree that it is only a small percentage of people who gawk and slow the rest of us?
centauri, Sep 08 2000

       Egnor: It's funny because I was stuck in traffic on I-5 just East of the Alaskan Way viaduct when the Anti-Gawker shield was first envisioned.   

       You are correct about double decker freeways but I am afraid the cost of such a configuration would be prohibitive.   

       And to respond to your initial point, "accident investigation sites" are a great idea but what happens when the accident is so severe that the cars cannot be moved to an out of sight location?
IBBen, Sep 08 2000

       As a cheaper alternative to double-decker freeways, just build a visual barrier between the two directions. (Is this why they have those weird green things on the SR520 divider east of Lake Washington?)   

       As far as "why do we have double decker highways on landfill in an earthquake zone, again?"... well, there are definitely issues with that particular roadway, but that's beside the point. In any case, there isn't exactly much room there for expansion, and it would be a real problem to cut off the waterfront entirely.
egnor, Sep 09 2000

       Centauri: No, I wouldn't agree. It is, in fact, the opposite; it's a very few of us who DON'T gawk and slow us down. I don't care what happened in the accident. Some idiot caused it, someone got hurt. Whoopee. I just want to get where I'm going.   

       When I worked for a rental car company as a driver, our van once broke down on the interstate. We pulled over, and ended up behind another car that had broken down previously, with nobody anywhere near it. Everybody stopped to look. I took one of the grease pens we had and wrote on the back window of the van in big letters 'Rubberneckers are morons', and leaned on the side of the van next to it waving at people, and pointing and nodding at the obvious ones. It was really funny to watch them read it then act like they hadn't seen it. One chick came to a complete stop and I could see her lips moving as she read it, then looked pissed and stomped on the gas and zoomed away. Truckers waved and blew their horns...
StarChaser, Sep 09 2000

       I'll confess up front that I don't drive, but I'm not keen on a close up inspection of Alcin's last meal, so I'm not going to mention public transport.   

       You could take a more direct approach to the rubbernecking problem by making it physically uncomfortable for people to turn their head whilst driving. Perhaps a modification to the head rest (possibly involving a connection to the battery) would help. Of course, you'd have to take into account legitimate head-turning (when reversing for example), so perhaps the restraints would only become active when within a hundred yards or so of an 'incident zone'.
DrBob, Sep 09 2000

       I feel a very stong "Other drivers are morons, not me" vibe coming from this whole line of annotation, but I'll leave it be, I guess.   

       egnor: I don't know what those green vanes are for, but I always assumed that had something to do with disrupting/channelling air flow or noise.   

       StarChaser: I don't think you are special in your desire to get where you are going. After all, a traffic jam is full of people just trying to get where they are going. I don't believe that many of them are really interested in being slow any longer than they have to. Anyway, some people slow down for other reasons than a macabre sense of curiousity. Some wish to see if they can help. Around a bad accident, many people will slow down just as they would at a construction zone. And, via the link above, it's pretty easy to theorize how a massive (and understandable) slowdown at the start of the accident could clog traffic flow for hours, even after the accident got cleared.
centauri, Sep 09 2000

       When the road is completely empty, the accident and associated vehicles totally off to the side, and cars only managing to pass it in ones and twos on a three lane high-speed road, the problem is people stopping to look.   

       My above example was on an otherwise empty road, before the van schittenselfen traffic was running fine, we pulled over and coasted to a stop without having to hit the brakes and slow down at all...and traffic still backed up.   

       People are idiots. They don't slow down to see if they can help, for the most part. Almost nobody ever actually stops. And when there are already cops and ambulances there, that excuse poofs right out the window. They want to see if they can see anything bloody so they can tell all their friends they saw the accident. I belive that I am not unique, but fairly rare in my attitude that I really don't care what happened, I just want to get past it so I can get on with my life. If I want to see an accident victim, I'll get much better pictures at rotten.com. Surprisingly, I've never been to that website.
StarChaser, Sep 09 2000

       It's a natural instinct, when faced with something unusual, to cautiously examine it. What's going on here? Is it dangerous to me? Do I need to change lanes? Is there debris in the roadway? Have people left flares burning in the road? Are emergency (or other) vehicles entering or leaving the scene?   

       Drivers have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings and to exercise caution around unknown hazards. Accidents are, by their nature, unknown hazards. If you take the approach "ignore everything that isn't in my lane and drive straight ahead" then you're much more likely to get into an accident yourself. Slowing down (gently) is almost always the *safe* thing to do, even if it is *annoying* to people behind you.   


       Now, maybe you're able to quickly appraise the entire situation, determine that there's nothing to affect your own course, and speed on by...   

       But that's not the real issue here. The problem is a classic queueing problem, where the amount by which *you* slow down is nowhere near commensurate with the amount by which you cause *other* people to slow down in the process. If you delay for an extra 15 seconds, you may be causing many minutes of delay (all told) for all the people stacked behind you.   

       The same issue occurs in grocery store aisles and lots of other queueing situations. Lots of grumpy people like to whine at the slowpokes and argue that they should simply keep the public good in mind, but that's an uphill battle.   

       Hence, another idea I posted here long ago, to actually incentivize people in a way that's related to the effect of their behavior. It was pretty ill-formed, though, and nobody really picked up on it.
egnor, Sep 09 2000

       'Aware of your surroundings' does not mean 'come to a near-complete stop, while still moving forward with your head turned away from the direction of traffic'. I've seen accidents happen at accidents because the idiots just can't not look, and don't pay attention to where they're going.   

       A 'traffic wave' moves backward against the flow of traffic. This is a standing wave, caused by people slowing or stopping so they can gawk.
StarChaser, Sep 10 2000

       In my experience, traffic waves can happen merely as a result of people behind trying to maintain safe distance between themselves and the car in front. I've seen them occur on a small scale on a normal city street, with no accidents or major distractions around.   

       People are stupid, but I don't think they're as stupid as you think. After all, you're a person. As a good Copernican, you shouldn't assume that you are all that much different in your basic thoughts and desires from anyone else, I don't care what your education or background might be.   

       And, to paraphrase what Dave Barry once wrote, the one thing that all human beings have in common is that, deep down, we know that we are above average drivers.
centauri, Sep 10 2000

       ... and removing the bloody accident scene from view would cause traffic to move more efficiently. As mentioned above, StarChaser has never visited rotten.com, but then again, rotten.com is not currently being shown on an ultra-large monitor on the side of the freeway, out of sight, out of mind. Keep the accident scene out of "sight" and help the drivers keep their "minds" on the roadway.   

       On several occasions, I have witnessed State Patrolmen standing next to an accident during rush hour doing nothing but frantically waving the traffic onward. This in itself is a distraction but it has always driven the point home, "keep moving!"
IBBen, Sep 10 2000

       This is a great idea! Maybe the Gawker Shield could display the current sports or stock market information. This would give me something to read while I talk on the cell phone and put on my makeup on the way to work in the morning.
Whole Baked, Sep 10 2000

       I am not a 'Copernican', whatever that is, and don't consider myself a 'person'. I am among them, not of them. I would be willing to bet that some of my 'basic thoughts and desires' would be so wildly different from yours as to dismay and alarm.   

       Traffic waves move backward along the road as each new influx of cars has to stop a bit. A standing wave that sits at one point with traffic backed up behind it caused by the blinkenlites that apparently very few people can just ignore is not the same thing.   

       I KNOW I am an above average driver, as I was a driver for Avis, and spent 8-16 hours a day on the road, five days a week. I had places to be and things to do and did not stop to gawk at the results of someone's stupidity. This is still true, although I am no longer a professional driver.
StarChaser, Sep 10 2000

       The anti-gawker shield already exists. I saw one in use on I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) several years ago. It was an 8' high horizontally-telescoping wall anchored by sandbags and placed around 50' to 60' of the site. I could see the lights of a firetruck and two abulance vans just over the top of the facade.
OldCrow, Sep 11 2000

       OldCrow: Did the shield seem to keep people from slowing to gawk?
centauri, Sep 11 2000

       Or they could just have a sniper shoot at gawkers
AfroAssault, Sep 14 2000

       Another problem people haven't yet considered is that when traffic gets backed up by a "gaper's block", the later motorists approaching the accident are already going rather slowly (to avoid hitting the cars ahead of them); I suspect few motorists slow down more than the car in front of them when the accident comes into view, but the problem is that until the accident is passed motorists may fail to speed up as soon as the cars in front do.
supercat, Sep 16 2000

       and, and what if an innocent child that never watches T.V. happens to see head rolling around, with the eyeballs popping out looking right at him, and stuff like that.
cornpad, Nov 09 2000

       Here's your solution:   

       Have an extra trooper with a radar gun near the accident scene. Anyone caught actually stopping or travelling less than 5 km/h gets a ticket (It'd be pretty easy to just scroll down such slow-moving license plates).   

       This way everyone would realize "Oh, crap. Soon as I get up there, I'm flooring it outta there". Plus, we should start educating people in driving schools about traffic waves. I agree with how they travel backwards (I've seen some web pages on the dynamics of it).   

       Actually, it's been proposed that if you are approaching a pile up, slow down, but don't race ahead just to join the halted pack. There's some kind of critical size/point at which the traffic wave/jam will move back to where these slow, yet moving cars are, and voila, your pile up is gone!   

       I'll see if I can find the links to post.
Wes, Jan 31 2001

       I think I found the link Wes was thinking of. I mostly like it 'cause it's one of the few good uses of animated GIFs I've ever seen in my life.
sera, Jun 14 2001

       The problem I see is the addition of lettering. If you write "caution, don't look, its a bloody mess..." they'll just slow down to read it and you are net-zero for the effort. The solution is obvious... stencil in the lettering of the first paragraph of our typical income tax form and people will sense it without a glance and avert their gaze. This suggests the ultimate solution would be for the traffic police to merely put up road side signs announcing random roadside tax audits; traffic would be brisk!
Prof Manitou, Apr 14 2003

       I reinvented this idea recently (as the Crashmask) but did not do a proper search to find its predecessor here. So - an anno!   

       The key to success: there are always several Crashmasks deployed randomly along the freeway. They are flat black and unremarkable. They are moved about every few days. Drivers would become accustomed to passing the occasional Crashmask, and curiosity would dwindle. On the occasion when the Crashmask actually screen an accident, noone would be the wiser.
bungston, Dec 05 2003

       Some people would pull over, get out of their car and cross the highway against the traffic to see what is behind that shield. They would do this because their loved one is late or is driving ahead of them on a trip etc..
hangingchad, Jan 18 2004

       There is at least one place in the world that uses screens, and that is Silverstone F1 race track (in England). A few years ago Michael Schumacher crashed & broke a leg. He was immediately surrounded by race marshals who shielded the accident with screens. The T.V. people then sent their helicopter over the screen to get pictures. Don’t you just love them!
Rattrap, May 05 2004

       Great Idea. I thought of it years ago and told one person.
ProblemSolver, Aug 31 2004

       I like to gawk!
missingdonuts, Feb 24 2005

       Baked long ago. Screening accidents from gawkers is not new. I saw such screens used several times to hide accidents on German Autobahns back in the late 80's. On stretches of Autobahn that have no speed limit, accidents can be spectacular. When drivers assume they can cruise at 160+ kph, it can be very dangerous to have traffic up ahead suddenly slow and congest.
zarbo, Jul 19 2008


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