November 15, 2004

Stoplight Design

Why are stoplights Red, Yellow and Green?

"Stoplights are red, yellow, and green, because traffic officials, early on copied the code system railroad engineers devised for track systems controlling the trains."

And something interesting I learned from reading "From cells to bells, 10 things the Chinese do far better than we do"

"In Tianjin, a city of 13 million people, traffic lights display red or green signals in a rectangle that rhythmically shrinks down as the time remaining evaporates. In Beijing, some traffic lights offer a countdown clock for both green and red signals. ... During a red light, you know whether you have time to check that map; on a green light, you know whether to start braking a block away -- or to stomp on the accelerator, as though you were a Toronto or Montreal driver. (That's probably why Montreal has a few lights with countdown seconds for pedestrians.)"

At what point is it worthwhile to change your standards if a better design is evident? I can't imagine the cost of rolling out new stoplight designs across the US. The cost for education and awareness alone would be huge. Yet, if it would prevent accidents and driver frustration, maybe it'd be worth it. Just thinking about the "business case" for analyzing the cost/benefit makes my head hurt, not to mention the political battles that would have to be won...

What do you think? Leave a comment...

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