Do Traffic Lights Cause Crashes?

Traffic lights are inefficient tools to handle traffic, and many should be replaced by roundabouts.
January 19, 2005, 7am PST | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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"Traffic lights are inefficient tools to handle traffic flow and minimize accidents because they encourage drivers to travel too fast and keep dangerously close to the vehicle in front for fear of missing a green light. Kenneth Todd of the Cato Institute says this combination of high speed, tailgating, diverted attention and sudden stops causes rear end collisions.

In addition, traffic signals cause congestion because they don’t moderate the use of the intersection efficiently: often cars sit idly by at a red light only to have no traffic using the green light. Overall, about 40 percent of the vehicle delays in urban areas are due to traffic signal inefficiencies.

Todd’s findings suggest that using more roundabouts and more all-way stops will cut down on lost time, taxpayer expense and accidents."

[January 20, 2004: Mr. Kenneth Todd writes in: "The traffic control system we have today is governed by rules that run counter to legal, engineering and safety principles. It has killed innumerable people, causes massive traffic jams, wastes innumerable hours of time and vast quantities of fuel, pollutes the air and leads to unjust decisions in civil accident litigation. A publication of the Federal Highway Administration lists four principal goals of urban traffic control: minimum stops, minimum delay, maximum capacity and maximum safety. The system does not meet these goals. It causes needless stops and needless delays, reduces capacity and provokes accidents. Traffic control inefficiencies cost the US motoring public an estimated $123 billion annually in lost time, wasted fuel and other vehicle operation costs. Billions more go to high-tech electronics in an attempt to fight the symptoms of self-inflicted problems. The roots of the problem lie in the irreconcilable contradictions between the equal rights and responsibilities each individual has under common law and the unequal rights and responsibilities that the right-of-way rules dictate. A return to a system based on common law principles will give the public a safer, more efficient and more cost-effective service. Please direct Planetizen readers to: [Editor's note: Be careful, this is a Microsoft Word document.]. That's the original version of which Cato printed an abridgment."

[Editor's note: The link below is to a 220KB PDF.]

Thanks to PreservingtheAmericanDream Listserv

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Published on Tuesday, January 18, 2005 in Cato Institute
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