Tuesday , July 16 2024

Experts support the removal of countdown timers from traffic signals

Drivers will be more proactive and roads safe, if traffic light timers are removed say experts.

Traffic lights with countdown timers at the Nguyễn Văn Trỗi – Trần Huy Liệu Intersection in HCM City’s Phú Nhuận District. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Đạt

HÀ NỘI — Many transport experts have agreed that the pilot programme to remove countdown timers from traffic signals at several major intersections in HCM City is a sound and appropriate initiative, which may help drivers be more proactive and may reduce the risk of traffic collisions.

The HCM City’s Urban Traffic Management Centre has implemented a pilot programme by removing countdown timers at three intersections along Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Street, including the intersections with Trương Định Street, Bà Huyện Thanh Quan Street, and Cách Mạng Tháng 8 Street.

The model has now been expanded and is being trialled at the Mai Chí Thọ – Tố Hữu intersection near the Thủ Thiêm Tunnel.

With the new model, traffic lights are set to change colours at flexible intervals, without displaying a numbered countdown. These intersections are equipped with surveillance cameras connected to the Urban Traffic Management Centre for remote management.

Võ Khánh Hưng, deputy drector of the HCM City’s Department of Transport, noted that countdown timers at intersections help road users anticipate traffic signal changes. However, despite their benefits, there are instances where people speed up to pass when the green light is about to end or try to cross before the red light fully changes.

Additionally, drivers in front are often honked at by those behind them.

“The rush from both lines of traffic to take advantage of the last few seconds is a leading cause of traffic collisions. Based on this, the department has studied the removal of countdown timers and piloted it at four intersections,” he said.

PhD Khương Kim Tạo, former deputy chief of staff of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said that removing countdown timers from traffic signals is a very sensible and appropriate decision.

“Developed countries such as the United States, Germany, France, Japan and others no longer use countdown timers. If we remove the countdown timers, drivers will only need to focus on the traffic signals, which will lead to safer behaviours,” he said.

According to Tạo, the duration of yellow lights, as stipulated in the 2008 Road Traffic Law, is not clearly defined, leading many to mistakenly believe that drivers should be penalised for crossing during a yellow light. However, the 2024 Road Traffic Safety Law allows all drivers to pass through a yellow light.

“There is no penalty for drivers going through a yellow light. Traffic standards dictate the duration of yellow lights is based on the speed of vehicles approaching the intersection and the width of the intersection. This design ensures that drivers have enough time and space to stop before the red light appears. Therefore, drivers only need to comply with the traffic light colours to ensure safety,” he explained.

Another point highlighted by the expert is that developed countries use traffic signals to support public transport, so buses and emergency vehicles, for example, are given priority.

Buses are equipped with devices that notify traffic signal control centres when they are approaching an intersection. As a bus nears an intersection, the traffic signal will turn green for the bus, while all other directions turn yellow and red.

“If we use countdown timers, we cannot implement the priority light system,” he said.

Nguyễn Xuân Thủy, an urban traffic expert, expressed his view that the red light duration should not exceed one minute and it should be kept under 50 seconds instead.

“It is better to segment the flow of vehicles rather than having a continuous stream of cars stretching for kilometres, which exacerbates congestion,” he said.

Regarding the idea of removing countdown timers from traffic signals, Thủy said it was an innovative approach.

“In my opinion, it is better to remove the countdown timer only for the red light. When moving through a green light, drivers still know how much time they have, which prevents them from speeding or rushing unnecessarily. Removing the countdown timer will help discourage reckless behaviour, and the likelihood of traffic accidents will gradually decrease.”

According to Thủy, the most crucial factor remains the awareness and adherence to traffic laws and that drivers need to recognise the importance of following regulations. — VNS

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