Burger Thought 0001 – Fix the “Yellow traffic lights” problem

Yellow Traffic Lights

Yellow traffic lights used to be there for a simple logical reason, green/red lights changes are too sudden… what happens when you’re a few meters off the traffic light and it switches colour ? Are you supposed to break like there is no tomorrow and hope you are not ending up in the middle of the cross-road or rammed up by the car following you whose driver was certainly not distracted by the agitated phone conversation he/she was having ?

It was thought that it would be too dangerous either way, so when conditions were not met to safely stop the yellow light provided an escape for the trapped law-abiding driver ! Tada, problem solved ! Wrong…  this solution presented two serious problems:

  1. Not so law-abiding drivers took this as a “as long as it is not red, I can go !”. Sure, I’ll save time and I’m not putting anyone in danger. This led to the uncanny situation where one would be honked for not crossing a yellow light. Always nice to see civil spirit looming around.
  2. It was left to the appreciation of the behind the corner/bush/tree officer of the day to decide whether you were able to stop in a safe manner. You could always protest that the guy behind you was yes at least 10 meters behind you but driving with his knees while on the phone and reading the news paper at the same time. This of course would not apply to any official/political/presidential/pope/U2 singer car as it is well known that their drivers are colour blind.

I suppose because too many people were using #1, they removed it and we are now (in most countries) left with the beautiful situation of having to once more guess whether the green light is about to turn yellow or not, or just simply looking around for officers hiding places (just double check that the guy behind you on the phone is not driving a police car). This renders the yellow light slightly useless, but heh, who are we to care ? Well, maybe bi-coloured traffic lights would be cheaper but that’s a different argument 😉

So, all of this to come to the first burger thought. The few of you who occasionally take a walk in our European capitals will have noticed that there are little pedestrian traffic lights with a little red guy and a little green guy (and even on some a little yellow guy which usually means “It’s time to accelerate grand-ma if you want to make it to the other side”). Someone must have noticed that when people arrive at a crossing they don’t have a clue as too how long they have to wait before they can risk their life jay walking across the street. Or maybe someone thought people were bored or people needed to know whether they would yes or no catch their train. So, they put a little count-down timer that nicely lets you know that you’re stuck for another 47 seconds…

So I am now asking how hard it would be to put a little count down timer on the green light for the drivers so that we would know that when the little count goes to 3 seconds we may start to break, and if we see the phone/newspaper dude behind us we may start breaking at 20 seconds to keep it on the safe side or just maneuver him out of the road once and for all. This would eliminate the need for a useless yellow light. This would also make it very easy to know whether the driver crossed on time or not, even police officers I am sure can see the benefit for them, they will not have to justify it again and again. Finally, as an added bonus, the little count-down timer could start again telling you how long it will be before you can start your car again. This way, you can safely look for that cigarette under your seat without wondering if you’re blocking the whole traffic every 2 seconds. This may also help people to all start at the same time instead of the old elastic party that we are so accustomed too — that way maybe traffic can be a little lighter.

Overall, a little count-down timer could be introduced bit by bit when traffic lights need to be replaced. No need to go crazy at it and change them all tomorrow. But this may very help people to de-stress a little instead of wondering if that horrible yellow light is going to change and how bloody effing long is that red light going to be !?

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