Red, red/amber, green, amber… every driver who’s ever past The Driving Test can repeat the mantra quick than you can say ‘A is for Accelerate’ but one man is trying to put an end to the humble British traffic light and that man is Sir Simon Jenkins.
Jenkins, sporting possibly the most public school surname available to anyone living in the UK today, has told that bible of good taste and understanding, The Reader’s Digest, that he believe traffic lights to be the work of some Orwellian ruling elite.
Rather than simply ensuring that traffic stops and starts in the right places, Jenkins has described traffic lights as ‘merely ways in which the state exert control over us’.
I’d tear down 90% of traffic lights,” Jenkins told the RD. “Most accidents take place at traffic lights because everyone is looking at the lights and not other road users”, he added, continuing: “In London there’s a light practically every 30 yards, mostly with a clear street ahead. They’re a very inefficient way of enabling road users to get around.
The RAC’s Technical Director David Bizley doesn’t agree:
There is growing evidence that in many high streets and densely populated urban areas, a simplification of traffic control would be beneficial in terms of cutting accident numbers and improving the flow of traffic. However, the majority of traffic lights fulfil an important safety role for both road users and pedestrians. In many situations the removal of traffic lights would actually do more harm than good by causing far greater congestion, because it would take away the ability to control traffic flows to reflect changing demand patterns.
Kevin Clinton of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RSoPA) weighed in:
It is incorrect to say that most accidents occur at traffic lights. There are many causes – running the red light, approaching too fast, not anticipating that the lights will change, following too closely, pedestrians stepping out without looking, to mention a few.