I propose a few simple changes to the law in the name of safer roads:

  • Ban tinted windows and require cops to ticket offenders. Most states regulate the amount of window tint, but 35% transmission (Massachusetts) is quite dark and enforcement is spotty. Eye contact and hand signals are very powerful tools for communication between drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, but tinted windows make this nearly impossible at night. Tijuana banned tinted windows last year for a different reason, but their enforcement has been exemplary: I’ve heard stories of Mexican police requiring violators to scrape their windows clean with a razor blade while they watch.

  • Eliminate touch-screen controls in vehicles. Factory-installed navigation systems usually allow input only while parked, but recently I’ve seen cars with touch-screen radio and climate controls. I don’t think I need to explain why this is a bad idea.

  • Require that instrument lights illuminate only when the headlights are on. My unscientific opinion is that, here in the city, about 1 in 20 drivers speeds around at night blissfully unaware that their headlights are off. Most of the time I’ve noticed that their dashboards are nonetheless lit. You can’t legally require drivers to pay attention and look out the front window, but you can beat them over the head with clues.

  • Stop making road signs that are redundant with proper driving practice. These create visual clutter and undermine the importance of teaching everyone the rules of the road. Examples of such signs seen on my commute include “SLOW” (at a place where everyone speeds up), “LEFT TURN YIELD ON GREEN,” and “RIGHT TURN ON RED ONLY AFTER COMPLETE STOP.” For more insight on this philosophy, read last summer’s excellent Atlantic Monthly article, “Distracting Miss Daisy.”