Mistakes Were Made (but not by us)


This articles title is taken from a book by Carol Tavris where she explains why we justify foolish beliefs and bad decisions. It applies cognitive dissonance theory to a wide variety of topics, including politics, conflicts of interest, the criminal justice system and business and the list goes on. She explains in layman’s language why we continue with flawed or poor decisions in spite of evidence that suggests that we should do otherwise. Also noted was the human tendency to shirk accountability.

Hmmm, does all this sound vaguely familiar?

The example she gives is taken from the earlier days of medicine. One doctor took note that an unacceptable number of patients died post operations as a result of infections.

He speculated that perhaps, just maybe he was in some way responsible by inadvertently infecting the patient with some germ or agent, so he decided as a precautionary measure to wash his hands before operating. To his delight the death rate of his patients dropped dramatically. A Eureka moment, armed with this evidence he was still unable to convince fellow surgeons to adopt the same practice. After all, they were doctors, weren’t they, dedicated to the health and well-being of their patients. They couldn’t possibly be doing anything wrong. Right? They were not prepared to “entertain” that their decision-making and practices were flawed.

In the world of reason world this would be referred to as “don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Where am I going with this?

The other morning as I was driving down Tower street I saw a tow truck loading yet another car on to the flatbed, the result of a 3rd T-bone accident at Tower and Ludlow over the past few years. I thought, maybe if they removed the STOP sign there would be fewer accidents?
Whoa! there Herb, have you scored some of that whacky-tabaccy from the new Cannabis Store newly opened on Prince William Street and now you’re higher than a kite ?

No, in fact I am referring to data that shows removing STOP signs and traffic lights promotes safer driving and reduces accidents and fatalities.

Controlled Chaos: European Cities Do Away with Traffic Signs
Can reducing the number of traffic signs reduce the number of accidents?
Crash reductions related to traffic signal removal in Philadelphia.

So what are the chances that we will see the removal of traffic lights and stop signs in Saint John based on growing evidence that the removal of STOP signs and traffic lights promotes safer driving practices and reduces accidents? Nah…….like the doctors a century ago who had their patient’s interests at heart, we know what we are doing….right?

Think about it.