Saturday, September 15, 2007

Self-destructive human tendencies

I came across this highly entertaining video on YouTube. It's video footage of various bus lanes in France. The lanes have a barrier to ensure that only busses are able to pass. When a bus pulls up to the barrier, there is some kind of weight sensor, and the barrier retracts into the ground. There is footage of three drivers who try to follow the bus to pass the barriers, but predictably, they all get impaled. One of them is probably going 15-20 mph when she smashes into the barrier. It turns out that she had a baby in the back seat.

The whole thing reminded me about spring guns. Every law student remembers the infamous case where an owner sets up a shotgun with the trigger connected to the door, which fires upon the unwitting trespasser. Although apparently no one has suffered serious injury from these barriers, I wonder, is it a good policy? Clearly in the U.S. we have refrained from condoning such "Darwin awards" -- practices in which folks may tend to get hurt, but only from the consequences of their own dumb actions. But maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to stop shielding the more dim-witted of us from the natural consequences of our actions. We are more than willing to monetize punishment, but one gets the sense that some people react better to monetary damages, and some people react better to a bonk on the head.

At any rate, I guarantee none of the folks in this video will try to cheat the bus lane again.

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