I was reading through the Comment section of the Telegraph Online yesterday, when I found this:
SIR – Why do we need green traffic-lights?
If red or amber is not showing, then one is free to proceed and no other light is necessary. How much electricity could be saved if green lights were abolished all over the world?
Its an interesting idea, which I’d never really thought of before.
But I’m not convinced we should get rid of green traffic lights. For one simple reason: everyone would assume that when there’s no light, then its safe to proceed. But what if a bulb goes? Or what if there’s a power cut?
You can see that if any of those two events were to occurr, the red lights would not display, therefore meaning that drivers don’t know its not safe to continue. It sounds like a recipe for disaster!
Instead, get rid of the red lights. When no light shows, you must stop. When the green light comes on, you may continue with your journey. As one commenter says: “I would rather have a country-wide traffic jam during a power cut as opposed to junction carnage“!
Thinking about it, even that might not be very sensible. If you’re travelling along at night, in the darkness, in the middle of nowhere, how do you know that the traffic lights are there? If its because you can see the light from a long way off, then you’ve just demonstrated why we shouldn’t be getting rid of green or red lights!
If you can see a green light from a long way off, you know the traffic lights are there and you’ll probably slow down in case it turns red. If you see a red light from a long way off, you’ll slow down. If you see no light, you won’t slow down. So when the red light comes back on, you’ll slam on the brakes and possibly end up crashing into all the other cars in front of you who have done the same.
Perhaps we should do what the Greeks do – get rid of the orange light? There’s no real need for it. Traffic lights tell you when its safe to go, and when its not, with or without an orange light!
Or… maybe get rid of them all together. A couple of experiments show that actually, this is more possible than you might have thought.