Unintended Consequences

Great Moments in Unintended Consequences: Texas Road Signs, Water Bottle Ban, Bachelor Tax (Vol. 7)

Good intentions, bad results


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"Great moments in unintended consequences"—when something that sounds like a great idea goes horribly wrong. Watch the whole series here.

Part 1: Road Kill

The year: 2012.

The problem: Driving fatalities on Texas roads!

The solution: Implement a simple, cost-effective awareness campaign by displaying crash death totals on highway message boards.

Sounds like a great idea, with the best of intentions, what could possibly go wrong?

In order to read these messages, passing motorists must look away from the road. 

Accidents along roads with new displays increased by 4.5 percent within 10 km of the sign, according to one study—amounting to an additional 2,600 crashes and 16 deaths per year in Texas.

Not good news, considering more than half of states in the nation have deployed these signs on their roadways. 

Part 2: Bottle Throttle

The year: 2013

The problem: Bottled water consumption at the University of Vermont creating waste!

The solution: Eliminate single-use bottled water from campus vending machines, give away reusable containers, and spend $100,000 to add filling stations around campus.

Sounds like a great idea with the best of intentions. What could possibly go wrong?

Students don't always remember things, like their reusable water bottles. Faced with limited choices, a study revealed the demand for sugary drinks on campus surged 25 percent and plastic bottle use per capita had increased by 6 percent.

Some ideas shouldn't be recycled.

Part 3: No Way, Fiancé

The year: 1900

The problem: Argentine bachelors sucking up valuable resources without producing more citizens. 

The solution: A bachelor tax! A strangely popular feature of the time, but with a special waiver for those gentlemen whose proposals were turned down. No need to pour salt in that wound come tax day. 

Sounds like a bizarrely antiquated idea, with the best of intentions, what could possibly go wrong?

The tax exemption gave rise to an entirely new vocation: professional rejectors! These entrepreneurial ladies would swear to authorities that a gentleman tried—and failed—to win their hand. And all for a fraction of the cost of the tax itself. 

Proving the old adage: you can't buy love, but rejection is on sale.

Written and produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg; narrated by Austin Bragg.