First, there was the data that showed that getting rid of speed limits made drivers safer and reduced fatalities. Then there was the finding that road signs make us less safe by lulling us into a false sense of security. Now, it appears that traffic lights unnecessarily slow down traffic and make us less safe as well, according to an article in The Telegraph:
Most traffic lights should be torn up as they make roads less safe, one of Europe’s leading road engineers said yesterday.
Hans Monderman, a traffic planner involved in a Brussels-backed project known as Shared Space, said that taking lights away helped motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to co-exist more happily and safely.
In this experiment, almost all of the traffic lights were eliminated from a Dutch town. There used to be a traffic fatality every three years; now, there are none.
There have been a few small collisions, but these are almost to be encouraged, Mr Monderman explained. “We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt,” he said yesterday.
“It works well because it is dangerous, which is exactly what we want. But it shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for his or her own risk.
“We only want traffic lights where they are useful and I haven’t found anywhere where they are useful yet.”
And it’s an advantage for both drivers and pedestrians:
Thus far, Drachten’s drivers and pedestrians have voted the experiment a success.
“I am used to it now,” said Helena Spaanstra, 24. “You drive more slowly and carefully, but somehow you seem to get around town quicker.”
Tony Ooostward, 70, was equally enthusiastic. “Everybody is learning. I am a walker and now you are the boss at the crossroads, everyone waits for you. But at the same time pedestrians wait until there are a number wanting to cross at the same time.”
Kanaan Jamal, 39, like many people in Drachten, uses a bike to get around. “It is very smooth — a lot better than other towns,” he said. The consensus is that the creation of uncertainty by taking away the lights and even in some places the road markings has worked.