Pedestrian countdown signals are a big help to safe drivers
A story in the Star’s Wheels section says a study has found
that pedestrian countdown signals have made intersections safer for people on
foot, but may cause an increase in accidents.
As someone who relies on them to help decide whether to hold
up in anticipation of a red light or press on, I think they make intersections
safer and should not be hidden from drivers, as a transportation services
The story cited research done over four years at 1,794
intersections by two University
of Toronto doctoral
students, who determined that about five fewer accidents per month involving
pedestrians have occurred since they were introduced in 2006.
But an average of 22 more accidents per month involving
vehicles occurred, which they attribute to drivers who see the countdown timer
as a signal to step on it when they’re close to the intersection and try to
beat the red.
Mike Brady, Toronto’s
manager of traffic, said he doesn’t think the findings add up, but went on to
say that if ongoing analysis by the city confirmed the study, it is possible
the signals could be obscured from drivers.
That would be a wrong move for those of us who find that the
signals allow us to make better decisions about when the light will turn
yellow, and use them to err on the side of caution.
It wasn’t long ago that the best information drivers had
when approaching an intersection was the flashing red hand that told them the
green light would soon change. But just how soon was always a guessing game.
Some drivers would boot it, even if they knew the hand had
been flashing for five seconds or more, which surely resulted in a lot if
Countdown signals tell pedestrians and drivers exactly how
many seconds are left before the light turns yellow, which is what they are
intended to do.
If the number is less than 10 by the time I can see it (I
have good eyesight at a distance), I know that the light will almost certainly
be yellow when I get to the intersection and start to slow down.
If the number is 12 or more when I first see it, chances are
good I can safely get through the intersection without speeding up.
That’s a big benefit for drivers who use them to make safe,
informed decisions, and don’t see the dwindling numbers – 4-3-2-1 - as a signal
to floor it.