/ Motoring

Do traffic lights make you see red?

Traffic lights at night

How often do you get stuck at a set of traffic lights that resolutely stay red even though there isn’t anyone else around? If you find this aggravating, you’re not alone – maybe there’s too many traffic lights on our streets?

A recent investigation by the RAC Foundation has revealed that the number of traffic lights in the UK climbed by 30% to more than 25,000 in the eight years between 2000 and 2008.

It criticizes this increase, and calls for local authorities to see if they can replace them with alternatives that will have a less detrimental effect on traffic flow, such as mini roundabouts.

That sounds like a very sensible suggestion to me – and it ties in with recent developments by other European countries. The town of Drachten in Holland, for example, found that removing the usual plethora of road furniture makes drivers more aware, and so more caring of pedestrians and other road users.

And to stop the frustration of vehicles being held at red lights late at night, a trial of ‘flashing amber’ lights has been put forward. An amber light would indicate that you have to slow down and be cautious, but that you needn’t stop without reason.

Not all of the RAC Foundation’s suggestions were as well considered though – cutting the time pedestrians have to cross at traffic lights from ten to six seconds isn’t practical. I work in London where this has already been trialed, and can confirm that the shorter time isn’t always enough to traverse a major junction.

Perhaps an increased use of countdown indicators for pedestrian crossings could be trialed instead? Whatever the alternative, adding more traffic lights to our roads certainly isn’t the answer. What do you think? And do you have any alternatives to help traffic flow and cut needless congestion?

Should more traffic lights be removed from our streets?

Yes - there are too many (51%, 225 Votes)

Maybe - some areas could benefit (33%, 147 Votes)

No - this would cause chaos (16%, 73 Votes)

Total Voters: 445

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On many occasions, I have noticed the following happening on less busy roads.
Someone approaches a pedestrian crossing on a road, presses the countdown button but before
the light changes he/she discovers that there is actually no traffic or the last vehicle has already passed. So he/she crosses the road and disappears on the other side. A moment later, the light changes to red for motor traffic and all approaching vehicles have to stop but there is not even a
single soul there trying to cross the road.
Maybe at spots like this the traffic lights should be replaced by just simple zebra crossings.

It is infuriating but newer pedestrian crossings help to avoid this problem. Unfortunately, replacement costs money, so that the problem will be with us for a few years yet.

I try to wait for a gap in the traffic rather than press the button at pedestrian crossings to avoid the need to stop the traffic. I am not advocating this as a safe thing to do, but I have not been killed so far!

I’m not sure that zebra crossings still have a place in the 21st century. They belong to a time when traffic density was lower and respect for other road users was higher.

Just Me says:
30 January 2012

I’m not condoning this technique, BUT if you are driving late at night and the traffic lights turn red, slow down, check every direction, if you see no cars, no people, no bikes or any other obstruction, carefully drive through them at a speed you know to be safe. If you get stopped by the police, then you were simply not taking enough attention, and did not abide by the technique I have just defined, and deserve to be caught. No one has to wait at red lights last thing at night, or during the day to be honest, if you are sensible, safe and careful about it.

Steve Evans says:
17 February 2012

so true about the pedestrian controlled crossings, people are ‘programmed’ to push that damned button – I’d love to be able to work out how much needless disruption to traffic flow, how much pollution, how much fuel is wasted every year in the UK through these things. Socially, it pushes us (as motorists) further and further into beings who can only repond to a ‘light’, as opposed to ‘a person’.