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Traffic Lights or Roundabouts?

A study of traffic in the US state of Indiana highlighted by the World Economic Forum caught my attention recently. Effectively, they’ve led the charge on installing roundabouts instead of traffic lights at busy intersections.


The upshot was that, “Overall, it has seen a 90% reduction in fatalities, 76% fewer injuries and a 30 – 40% fall in the number of accidents involving pedestrians [and]… roundabouts increase road capacity by up to 50%.”


What does this have to do with schools?

Let’s look at the characteristics of both systems for curbing dangerous or problematic behaviour.


With traffic lights:

  • The point of control is with the authorities.
  • The expectation of the participants is compliance.
  • Failure to comply is punishable by the authorities via vigilant surveillance.
  • The effort and responsibility to run the system and punish non-compliance sits with the authorities.
  • The outcome is often high rates of harmful participant collisions and overwhelmed authorities.


With roundabouts:

  • The point of control is with the participants.
  • The expectation of the participants is cooperation.
  • Failure to comply is commonly dealt with by a toot (or perhaps a flipped bird) from a fellow participant.
  • The effort and responsibility to install the system sits with the authority figure but the use of the system is owned by the participants.
  • The outcome is lower rates of harmful participant collisions and reduced authority involvement.


So I have two questions for you:

  1. Do you want your school/classroom to be more reflective of a traffic light system or a roundabout system?
  2. Is there a mismatch between that decision and your current methods for curbing problematic behaviours?


Keep fighting that good fight,


PS. If you answered yes to both questions, I reckon I can help. I’m running sessions designed for teachers who want to embed culture change in your classrooms through restorative practices. Workshops will run in every state and territory – register here.

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