24 September 2009

Meandering mind of the commuter

There was a traffic accident on the drive in this morning and traffic was a little slow. So in my idle time (pun intended) I started thinking about yesterday’s traffic. It was a little slow yesterday too. Not traffic-accident slow, just standard sluggishness. Yesterday, as I approached the northern fringes of downtown, creeping along the freeway, I noticed a police car pulled alongside the shoulder on the opposite side of the freeway monitoring traffic speed with his radar contraption. I remember thinking that speeding motorists on a freeway near downtown Houston in morning rush hour might be a rare phenomenon. But hey, maybe HPD knows something about traffic trends that I don’t.

The situation actually reminded me of a news story that I read two or three years ago. Apparently, a child that happened to have a “toy” radar speed-measuring device was single-handedly successful in changing the behavior of speeding motorists along his neighborhood street. As I recall, the boy stood in his front yard, pointing the contraption at approaching vehicles and wrote down their license plate numbers if they were speeding. And it seemed to work! Of course, in my mind, I have embellished the imagery: boy wearing a football helmet, his father’s sunglasses and a superman cape perched on his spider bike, poised to initiate pursuit if needed to apprehend speeding offenders.

The real moral to the story is, however, that we are more likely to push the boundaries of behavior if we believe no one is watching, but when we are aware that we are being observed, we make a conscientious attempt to keep our behavior in check.

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