End Anonymity: A Solution to Road Rage, the Internet and More

RoomMates RMK1512GM Donald Duck Peel and Stick Giant Wall DecalI was driving back from Portland yesterday, fresh from dropping off the fam at the bus stop, when I almost got in a car accident. I was on an unfamiliar stretch of road (curse you, GPS!), and totally missed seeing another car. He was in my blind spot and in a left turn only lane, and he decided to go straight instead of turning. I went to get over, and we about collided. It seemed rather close–let’s just leave it at that. And while I was more than a bit irritated with him, I also realize that I might have read the road signs wrong–it’s certainly possible that he wasn’t in a left turn only lane. Could be my bad, so I felt bad about it, too.

In general, I like to think of myself as a competent driver. Of course, the problem with that is that I think almost everyone thinks of himself or herself as a competent driver. You don’t get many people saying, “I am the worst driver you’ve ever seen.”

We need to fix that.

We need a device that attaches to cars that shows the driver’s record. Think of it–every time you cut someone off, a tally mark gets added to your public display. Every time you run a red light, or gun through an intersection, it all gets added up. The same for good driving. Let a guy merge into traffic? Tracked. Sure, the privacy nuts would have a field day with this, but think about it–when a really good driver makes an honest mistake, you’d be able to know it was an honest mistake. When an awful driver gets too high up there, then his car stops working.

You’d no longer be able to make broad, general claims like “I’m a competent driver.” You’d be branded with a clearly understandable, non-debatable mark: “Speeds consistently, but other than that, a pretty darned good driver.” Or maybe, “Rude and disgruntled law breaker on the verge of getting his car shut down remotely.”

Because when you get right down to it, the roads are pretty much comparable to the internet. People are anonymous. There’s little in the way of accountability–just some randomly placed police cars toodling around now and then. Make people accountable, and you’d do away with the road rage and rude driving. After all, when’s the last time another pedestrian cut you off while walking? Unless you live in a big city (and are thus rendered anonymous), probably never. Or at least very rarely.

It was the same thing with Myspace. You could be fairly anonymous there, and so people posted who-knows-what. The place was lawless and more than a little greasy. Blech. Compare that to Facebook, where people use their real names and identities. Much less grease.

It makes me wonder what other bad situations anonymity contributes to. Thoughts?

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