I have seen two accidents at traffic lights in the last 12 hours. One extremely serious and one quite serious. The problem with traffic lights is that any accident that occurs at the intersection is going to be high speed.
Traffic lights tell one driver that they can switch off completely, “safe” in the knowledge that in the vast majority of cases, cars on the other roads leading to the junction are paying attention. For the vast majority of the time this works…. .
People think traffic lights are a guarantee of safety but the latest audit from Westminster City Council, for example, has shown that 44% of personal injury accidents occurred at traffic lights. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18072259
Why it is desirable for local governments to put in a system that allows one driver to completely switch off from their surroundings as they are crossing a lane or lanes of traffic is beyond me.
The only saving grace for traffic lights in areas where there is congestion, is that instead of the two cars meeting at high speed, the accident occurs as a bumper to bumper crash in the queue leading up to the traffic lights.
I have posted a video on YouTube here showing the practically unlimited traffic capacity of junctions where no road has the right of way. The junction moves freely and yet the junction at the top of the frame in the video, which is arguably dealing with less traffic is congested.
That trial has gone permanent and the monitoring has shown that journey times fell by over half with no loss of safety.
In summary traffic lights are a highly dubious addition to the motoring landscape. Putting in a device whose sole intention is to allow half the drivers to switch off is inherently dangerous.
It only takes one person not paying attention to cause a massive accident. There is no such thing as a slow speed accident at a traffic light intersection.
The fact that many traffic lights are also equipped with lights for the pedestrians takes the insanity to a whole new level.
“Traffic lights are a metaphor for disenfranchisement,” says Professor Susan Greenfield, a neuroscientist and Director of the Royal Institution. So decision-making is increasingly usurped by systems, which inhibit individual development. – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/7187165.stm
At least car drivers have a level of protection, the last thing you want is for pedestrians to be blindly obeying the green man and crossing without looking which is inevitably what happens. The majority of pedestrians simply switch off when and simply look for the green man as the sign to cross without looking.
I know of no other system in the world that claims to “protect” its users, no other system that has the literal life of the people using the system in its hands and yet at the same time has no human oversight managing it on a second to second basis.
In Los Angeles in 2006, of the 4,423,725 workers in the city, 83.9% used car to travel to work. That works out at 7.4 million car trips a day. Conservatively estimating that each journey encounters two traffic lights, that works out as the traffic light control system taking the responsibility for lives of 14.8 million people a day.
LAX air traffic control in comparison only deal with 61.9 million lives in a year or 170,000 a day. And yet LAX air traffic is managed on a second by second basis.
There are around 260 accidents that involve at least one fatality every year in LA and yet none at LAX.
In short, traffic lights are constantly shown to increase congestion and massively increase the chances of fatal accidents because of the speeds involved. The fact that by definition traffic lights are designed to allow one set of drivers to completely switch off when they are crossing an intersection is a recipe for disaster and simply takes away one fail safe system, ie an extra driver using their brain.
The fact that lights are also used for pedestrians defies belief. Looking at the last link it can be seen that LA and New York have the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities in the USA, I would bet there are more traffic lights per car and per pedestrian in these cities than any other in the USA.
The evidence against traffic lights in indisputable and when you read these links you will see how barbaric the idea of roads and traffic lights are.