A Hindu Traffic Nudge

Karan Talwar, a blogger and Freakonomics reader, writes about an interesting traffic nudge near Shimla, India. The roads into Shimla are notoriously dangerous, and traffic signs have done little to lessen the problem. So local authorities began constructing temple shrines at hot spots. The nudge worked like a charm: “Turns out even though the average Indian has no respect for traffic laws and signs, they will slow down before any place of worship and take a moment to ask for blessings!”[%comments]


This would so not work in the US


strange but true and i can vouch for that 100% of times


^^^ really? don't you slow down a bit when you see those crosses on the road that signify that someone died there?

Kevin H

I thought you were going to say a cow in the middle of the road, which also does work from what I've seen in Nepal.


In America, we should probably put up billboards of scantily clad women at highly trafficked intersections. That would slow down 1/2 the drivers.
And if those billboards were brought to us by a woman's shoe company, a jewelry company, accessory company or some other over-priced retailer aiming at the female shopper, then that would likely covet the other 1/2 of drivers.


This seems so true! Strange but true


This might work, but i've also seen instances in South India where there are temples on national highways and people passing by at really high speeds don't slow down but just throw coins at the temple alongwith their hasty prayers of course. Can you imagine getting hit by a speeding coin?

Julia R

The only other thing that will stop Indians from slowing down on a busy street would be a cow.

Vikram Hegde

^ Superlike Jamie's comment. Cow is what I thought too. You ask the people who stop at these shrines and they will tell you it is the blessings of that deity that has stopped all accidents in the vicinity

Ravinder Makhaik

The billboard strategy would not work here in Shimla (India) because the traffic is so thick that because of slowdowns, there would be more accidents and some may even roll of the hill ogling the nice larger than life model bodies on display.

In between, setting up a holly spot alongside the road is helping easing over speeding on some fast lanes.


assuming jamie (#5) is a male name, I'm going to guess that "covet" was a freudian slip


Ah, religion put to practical use. Applause.


well in Pakistan, cemeteries and masoleum of saints achieve a similar affect...not only people slow down and say a silent prayer but also turn off the loud music in their cars/buses...though surprisingly mosques by the roads don't have such impact


Confusing causation and cause here. More likely that the temples were crowded and vehicles *had* to slow down to avoid hitting ppl dead on.

And also because the road would be *that* much narrower, so they risk hitting the shrine directly. and no one really likes testing concrete and stone for toughness.

So, please dear Freakonomics professors, put more thought into it.

If not, just go read your article on how traffic speed can be managed, how there are hard measures like speed bumps and softer ones like schools, eat-outs etc.,



Don't underestimate the level of 'appreciation' of scantily clad women by other women. Seen the covers of any women's magazines lately?

Keertan rai

i guess it explains why we see more temples than hospitals in many indian cities.


@jamie: You should try to prove your theory with data from Italy. You should see the average billboard around here: almost-naked ladies selling all kind of goods!


The problem with having religious shrines is that they are impossible to tear down later if the road needs expansion, as most developing country roads do. The people of India are absolutely against tearing down any religious symbol.

Most Indian cities have a much simpler way of slowing down traffic; something called speed breakers:
A slightly raised area of road which provides an ugly bump if you go too fast over it.


True, but a newcomer on the road who has no idea about the temple needs to have good reflexes to avoid crashing into other vehicles


This works in rural Bavaria as well. Small chapels are at every intersection there.