Driver & Pedestrian Safety At Traffic Lights

Driver and Pedestrian Safety At Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are electrically-operated traffic control devices that direct traffic to either stop or proceed forward. The signals offer maximum degree of traffic control at intersections by directing drivers and pedestrians on what to do. The core function of any traffic light is to assign the right of way to the conflicting movements of vehicles and pedestrians at an intersection in order to allow the conflicting streams of traffic to use and share the same intersection by way of time separation.

And by alternately giving the right of way to drivers and pedestrians, the traffic lights ensure orderly, efficient and safe movement of vehicular and pedestrian traffic while increasing the traffic handling capacity of intersections.

Driver Safety at Traffic Lights

Traffic lights help to regulate traffic flow and to make driving safe. However, drivers must know what the different colours of traffic lights mean and what actions they should take as they approach the lights.

Generally, the colour of the traffic lights facing the drivers as they approach intersections should determine the actions they must take. But when the traffic lights are not in operation, the drivers should follow either the Give Way at T-intersection Rule or the Give Way to the Right Rule, whichever is applicable.

And when approaching a busy road or intersection, drivers must drive at a safe speed because signal changes may occur before they reach the intersection.

So what do different traffic lights signal to drivers?

(i) Red Light: Drivers must not enter the intersection. For roads with white lines painted on them, drivers must stop their vehicles behind those lines and as near to the lines as practicable.

(ii) Red Arrow: Drivers must not enter the intersection if they intend to turn in the arrow’s direction. They must stop at the stop line. As soon as the red arrow goes out and leaves behind a green light, the drivers are allowed to proceed as long as it is safe to do so. Still, they must give way to on-coming traffic (when turning right) and to pedestrians who are crossing the roads they are entering.

(iii) Green Light: Drivers should proceed through the intersection, turn right or turn left, as long as it is safe to do so. When turning right, drivers should go beyond the stop line and drive as far as possible without hindering oncoming vehicles. And when inside the intersection, they can wait until it is safe to make a complete turn. Drivers must also give way to pedestrians (when turning right or left), vehicles from opposite direction (when turning right) and to the pedestrians and vehicles in the intersection after the last light signal.

(iv) Green Arrow: Drivers can proceed in the arrow’s direction if it is safe for them to do so.

(v) Amber Light: Indicates that the traffic lights are about to turn Red. Drivers must not enter the intersection unless they are very close to the stop line and are unable to stop safely without entry into the intersection or may risk rear-end crashes with the vehicles following them.

(vi) Amber Arrow: Indicates that the traffic lights are about to shift to Red. Drivers intending to turn in the arrow’s direction must be ready to stop and should not enter the intersection past the stop line unless they are unable to stop their vehicles safely. If the yellow arrow goes out and leaves only a green light, the drivers may proceed but must beware of on-coming vehicles.

Pedestrian Safety at Traffic Lights

Traffic lights for pedestrians are usually located in busy roads and mid-block locations to stop vehicles and give way to the huge numbers of people to cross the roads safely. Pedestrians should know what the traffic lights mean and must follow the signals strictly. When a pedestrian arrives at a road with traffic lights, he/she should press the lights button and wait patiently until the light changes to Green Walk Signal before crossing.

In fact, pedestrians approaching traffic lights must NEVER start crossing the road when the lights are flashing the Red Don’t Walk signal. Instead, they must wait for the Green Walk Signal before they start to cross and must also wait for the vehicles to stop before they can start crossing.

For enhanced safety, pedestrians should:

(i) Walk against traffic.
(ii) Wear light-coloured (reflective) clothing so they can easily be seen.
(iii) Be acutely aware of their surroundings.
(iv) Make eye contact with drivers or motorists before they begin crossing the road.