Traffic lights make people drive like zombies

Want to reduce the risk of traffic accidents and pedestrians getting struck by vehicles? Then remove the traffic lights and let people cross anywhere they want.

Professor John Adams of University College London explains in a February 2008 article that “traffic lights force drivers to watch and obey robots rather than other road users – an obedience not enforced to the same degree on pedestrians, skateboarders or cyclists. One result is that zebra crossings are dangerous because drivers are no longer used to eye contact with other road users. Technology makes them drive like zombies.”

Read the complete article here

I am inclined to agree with this theory. Growing up in Montreal, where drivers have a reputation for being aggressive, one would regularly jaywalk across busy downtown streets like Rue Ste-Cathernine all the time. We were careful (and stupid) but there was an understanding: I saw the driver’s eyes and I knew he could see me. As a driver, when you expect people to dart across the street, you are careful and look for the danger. (This explains why you cannot make right turns on red lights in Montreal.)

Later when I moved to Toronto, I realized that pedestrians and drivers co-exist differently: pedestrians cross the street with a false sense of entitlement, staring straight across at their destination like zombies never turning their heads to look at any of the drivers. You have no idea how many times I get caught in the middle of the intersection trying to make a left because the pedestrians are taking their sweet time with no concern for the drivers trying to make a left. Like I said, a false sense of entitlement.

It’s too bad they are not real zombies because then they’d be already dead so at if I nailed one of them I wouldn’t technically be killing anyone.


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