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Unintended Consequences For Traffic Safety Feature

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the airbag-inflates-with-pure-mercury dept.

Transportation 579

An anonymous reader writes: Traffic engineers had a problem to solve: too many pedestrians were getting hit by cars while using the crosswalks at intersections because they didn't know when the 'WALK' sign would change. Their solution was simple: implement a countdown timer. Countless cities have now adopted these timers, but it turns out to have an undesired consequence: motor vehicle crashes are actually increasing at intersections where the countdown timer is used. Researchers think this is because pedestrians aren't the only ones who see the timers. Drivers see them too, and it provides them with information on when the light will change. Then they anticipate the change by either speeding up to beat a change to red light, or anticipating a green light in order to get through before the pedestrians can move into the road. The researchers suggest finding some way to hide the countdown from the drivers, perhaps through the use of an audio countdown that would be difficult to hear from inside a car.

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Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367437)

Please don't do an audio countdown. It doesn't work for us hard of hearing people.

Re:Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (5, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | about 3 months ago | (#47367475)

"Please don't do an audio countdown. It doesn't work for us hard of hearing people."

Where I live, they have audio ticking for blind people. They make a ticking noise when it's green for pedestrians.
Although some of them seem to be made for almost-deaf blind people, since it's very loud even during daytime.

Re:Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 3 months ago | (#47367547)

And it annoys the hell out of normal hearing people, especially those living close to an intersection. Please, there's enough noise as it is.

How about a very small timer that can be read by people standing next to it, waiting to cross? There's absolutely no need for it to be readable from across the street.

Re:Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367577)

I can see a few issues with this.

1. Increase of cost. Adding a pole for the near side would add cost.
2. Looking down at the timer when you should probably just be looking at traffic. Alternatively, having the timer on the post with the "walk/don't walk" sign at least has you focusing near your path of travel.

Perhaps the countdowns can be highly directional (polarized?) in the shallow arc that would be visible to only the pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Re:Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (2)

Zembar (803935) | about 3 months ago | (#47367663)

I can see a few issues with this.

1. Increase of cost. Adding a pole for the near side would add cost.

At least here in Sweden we have poles on both sides as people will be crossing the street in both directions. Yours work differently?

Re:Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 3 months ago | (#47367693)

1. Increase of cost. Adding a pole for the near side would add cost.

Then add it to the far pole of the other side. Duh!

2. Looking down at the timer when you should probably just be looking at traffic. Alternatively, having the timer on the post with the "walk/don't walk" sign at least has you focusing near your path of travel.

Who says you have to look down? Just install it at more or less eye height so you can see it before you start to cross. Then, while crossing, you look at traffic instead of at the digits on the other side.

Re:Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367865)

And it annoys the hell out of normal hearing people, especially those living close to an intersection.

Bullshit. Unless the pole is in your bedroom, you aren't gonna fucking hear its beeping from your house.

How about a very small timer that can be read by people standing next to it, waiting to cross?

What about blind people?

Stupid. (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 3 months ago | (#47367459)

We would run out of deaf people SO FAST. Obviously the proper solution is to make the sidewalk vibrate.

Re:Stupid. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367509)

I believe we call this "natural selection". Hopefully it will operate more strongly on iPod zombies than on deaf people (who I presume are smart enough to make extra visual checks when crossing roads to compensate for not being able to hear anything, whether vehicles themselves or alerts) though.

Re:Stupid. (1)

Megane (129182) | about 3 months ago | (#47367765)

I bet we could do it by making the crosswalk out of solar-powered roadway tiles!

Re: Stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367823)

Not a great idea in earthquake prone cities. ;)

Big government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367461)

how dare these communist scientists try to affect the killing pedestrians feature of this modern sport that driving cars in cities is.

Or Maybe Self-Driving Vehicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367465)

You know, take the decision to be an asshole driver out of the hands of people.

Re:Or Maybe Self-Driving Vehicles (1)

zwarte piet (1023413) | about 3 months ago | (#47367501)

Then you also take away opportunities to be a gentleman. :(

Re:Or Maybe Self-Driving Vehicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367869)

No doubt a future BMW X3/X5/Xn will come with an invisible checkbox on the infotainment system labelled "Drive like a total douchebag", defaulting to checked after analysis of existing Xn-driver preferences.

sound and sides (5, Insightful)

thaylin (555395) | about 3 months ago | (#47367479)

Make angled sides on the signal to that you can only see it from like a +/- 5 degree angle, or less, and use sounds for the blind.

Re:sound and sides (4, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about 3 months ago | (#47367579)

A lot of crossing signs in the UK have metal boxes around the lights, and horizontal shutters to boot, so you can't really see the light from anything but ground level at the crossing point. I'm guessing it's largely a light pollution and confusion-reduction measure (e.g. you don't see the light for an adjacent crossing and mistake it for your own) but it means that the hardware's already available, probably as an off the shelf component, for some styles of light.

Re:sound and sides (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367727)

In new zealand, on the bottom of the push button box, there is a little dimple you put your finger in. When the walk sign changes green, you hear a buzzer sound and if you are blind and deaf, you can feel a little button push your finger out of the dimple

Re:sound and sides (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367881)

In Britain it's a little thimble on the bottom of the "button box" (is that really what that's called?) and when the light turns green the thimble spins letting someone know holding it that it's safe to walk.

What about deaf people? (2)

refer_2_me (2997897) | about 3 months ago | (#47367481)

Since they can't hear, maybe they should use a flashing light, oh wait...

Driverless Cars (5, Interesting)

mfh (56) | about 3 months ago | (#47367487)

Computers will fix this kind of thing by default.

Re:Driverless Cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367551)

That's what Skynet wants you to think.

Re:Driverless Cars (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367709)

I'm afraid I can't let you do that Dave.

OR (5, Insightful)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 3 months ago | (#47367489)

Drivers need to pay attention to the road, there is no excuse for hitting a pedestrian in a cross walk or for a car to hit car at a cross walk. Drivers need to grow up, pay attention and stop blaming everything but the lack of driving ability.

Re:OR (4, Insightful)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 3 months ago | (#47367525)

That's a great solution, I wonder why nobody else has thought of that!

Re:OR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367591)

Don't just blame drivers, pedestrians are just as boneheaded. Every day I have to make a left turn, for which there is a specific green arrow, and pedestrians don't pay any attention; they start walking anyway despite the DON'T WALK sign and are all surprised when they are nearly hit.

Re:OR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367681)

And thanks to the timers I've seen an increase in how many pedestrians break into a run trying to make it to the other side rather than waiting for the next turn.

Re:OR (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 months ago | (#47367825)

There is an intersection where I live.
Here is the situation.
There is a 3 Lane Traffic, 1 lane from one road that merges to a 2 lane highway. that goes into a 4 lanes where the Left two lanes have a left turn and the right two lanes continue up on the street. They are 2 traffic lights within 100 feet of each other, going up a hill, and they are also a crosswalk to boot.
There is so much stuff going on it is near impossible for drivers to get a full view of what is going on, if you are in the wrong lane you will have a lot of trouble getting into the right one without cutting people off, or jamming traffic. So you are doing your best not to hit cars. Then you add a random person walking across the street by J walking. There is just an other wildcard. And these people get hit and there were some deaths.
What was the approach for this. Make sure people are not speeding on that road. While that intersection tends to be 10-20 mph slower then the speed limit anyways.

It isn't technology, but poor planning of the roads and they use technology as a cheap workaround. However that rarely solves the problem.

Re:OR (5, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47367607)

While you are 100% correct, I was always taught to pay attention to my surroundings ... and that includes keeping an eye out for a ton or two object moving at a decent speed.

One could argue that in most cases, a pedestrian paying attention could have avoided getting ran over if they'd pulled their heads out of their phones long enough to look around them.

Re:OR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367705)

You wear headphones over your eyes?

Re:OR (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 3 months ago | (#47367749)

Without even reading the article I can grok that this is about vehicle-vehicle collisions increasing, by the fact that vehicle-pedestrian collisions are excluded by being the reason for the safety system in the first place.

This is almost certainly about cars charging out into intersections to "beat the timer" and losing control, or cars stopping safely when they should, only to be rear-ended by some knob who looks at the timer and thinks the guy in front will try and the race the lights.

Re:OR (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47367689)

Drivers need to pay attention to the road, there is no excuse for hitting a pedestrian in a cross walk or for a car to hit car at a cross walk.

They do.

Unfortunately, there is a countdown timer telling them the light will change to yellow in 4 seconds, so they know they need to speed up to make it through.

I can't tell you how often I see cars racing to get through an amber light who actually enter the intersection after the light turns red.

Easiest solution... (5, Funny)

fellip_nectar (777092) | about 3 months ago | (#47367491)

The driver should only score half points...

What I've seen at some intersections... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367495)

Is that it seems like the timer gets down to 0, then adds 5-10 more seconds. I'm not sure why that happens, but it seems like if drivers learned that just because it is getting to 0 it might not be actually changing, they might lessen this behavior. I suspect they could also make the numbers a bit smaller, or better enclose them, so perhaps you need to be looking at them from a certain angle to see them.

Re:What I've seen at some intersections... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367549)

Around here I've seen 3 common scenarios.

1) The counter reaches zero when the light changes from red to green
2) The counter reaches zero when the light in the other direction changes from green to yellow (thus it's about 3-4 seconds earlier than scenario 1)
3) The counter reaches zero, then you have another 10 to 20 seconds before the light change actually takes place.

The first 2 scenarios I can understand (though I don't know why they cant standardize), but the 3rd scenario just baffles me. What is even the point of the countdown timer? It barely provides any additional information beyond your standard walk/dont walk sign. Yes, you can essentially know how long the light will stay in the "walk" state, but after that, what is essentially the blinking "dont walk" state stays for 10-20 seconds, which is enough to cross the street even if its reached zero as you step off the curb. I just dont get the point, and I wonder how many people just disregard the counter because of that.

Re:What I've seen at some intersections... (1)

what2123 (1116571) | about 3 months ago | (#47367559)

What they do in my small city (PA) is the following. Ped lights are on a timer. Once they are allowed to walk, the intersection is red for at least 5-10 seconds. Peds get to walk without any cars attempting to move. Then the lights change to green, peds still have a "walk" light and everyone seems to be happy. So even though a driver can see the timer, they don't know exactly when their light will change. I'm pretty sure the interval is not always "10 seconds" since you always see cars creeping thinking the light is about to change and it doesn't.

Re:What I've seen at some intersections... (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 3 months ago | (#47367565)

What happens, with the ones I've paid attention to, is that when the timer gets to 0 (or the hand stops flashing if it's one of those lights), the light turns from green to yellow, so the delay is the time of the yellow light, plus the slight delay in which lights in both directions are red before the other direction turns green.

Sadly, there are a lot of behaviors that driver's *should* learn. Such as noticing lights from cars coming the other way on trees/houses when driving at night, or how to handle high beams from opposing traffic.

Re:What I've seen at some intersections... (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 3 months ago | (#47367745)

In a lot of European countries, that is more or less the default. Most lights do not have a counter, but the green light (for pedestrians) will start to flash for about 15 seconds before the light will switch to red. Then there is a further delay of a few seconds, and only then will the lights for motor traffic go green. In general, there is always a few seconds delay before traffic lights move from one phase to the next, so drivers learn to always look at the traffic lights for their own lane. Hit the gas when the pedestrian light goes to red,and you'll be running a red light.

Economy (1, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 3 months ago | (#47367507)

The solution is to create a system that makes it profitable to generate a system with 0 deaths and the shortest travel times from random points A to B.

What the article speaks about is not the problem, it's the symptom. Just as giving the fines money to local governments shortens yellow lights, a system must be found that gives money to the best solution. Which should be easy, as we know how to identify the better solution among the existing ones.

So:
1 - Define rules of best solution.
2 - Give money in direct relation to proximity to best solution
3 - Wait.

Re:Economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367589)

I think you got steps 2 and 3 wrong...

Re:Economy (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 3 months ago | (#47367761)

Please do not mix economy with finance. They are hardly related anymore.

So:

  1. 1 - The market will solve it!
  2. 2 - The money goes to a newly formed group of big companies in bed with a bank (because this allows the bank to create money out of thin air). Off course, the bank demands "securities" (for what?) and society is heavily taxed.
  3. 3 - Problem solved. At least, on the low-traffic pacific island where the "investors" now live.

Audible warning (5, Insightful)

dywolf (2673597) | about 3 months ago | (#47367511)

In atlanta at least, the countdown is already accompanied by an audible chirp.
Intended for blind or otherwise disabled folks (except deaf folks, naturally), it also serves as a cue for regular folks as well to hurry up on some of hte larger/wider intersections.

Really all that should be fixed is to put a bigger gap between the countdown reaching 0 and the light actually changing. My experience with signal timing (and this is my trafic engineering schooling showing through) is roughly half-half: about half the intersections I saw with the countdown change immediately, others still have the standard 4-5 second "intersection clearance delay" between the countdown ending, and the light actually changing. The clearance delay exists for obvious reasons to put a delay between one side turning red and another green. It should simply also take the crosswalk into consideration as well as a best practice.

Re:Audible warning (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 3 months ago | (#47367573)

" for regular folks"

Was not aware that I wasn't a regular folk. You learn something new every day.

Re:Audible warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367733)

I'm sure he meant to say "persons not suffering an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental."

Simple solution (3, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 3 months ago | (#47367513)

Put a small shield along the side of the timer so the drivers can't see the timer.

I know, I know, the solution doesn't involve some convoluted, drawn out, highly technical, over-engineered process so it will never be implemented.

Instead, we'll go out of our way to find the most convoluted, drawn out, highly technical, over-engineered, and expensive, solution and claim we're making progress.

Re:Simple solution (1)

gtall (79522) | about 3 months ago | (#47367563)

Angles, son, consider angles. At 30-40 feet down the road, the shield is no impediment. And if it is, then it is sticking out into the perpendicular roadway.

Re:Simple solution (1)

Primate Pete (2773471) | about 3 months ago | (#47367585)

I think it would be difficult to make the numbers visible to pedestrians, but invisible to cars. The cars and pedestrians are only a few degrees apart.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367653)

Don't put the timer next to the traffic light across the street. Put it low on the pole next to the waiting pedestrians, right at the corner, pointing slightly away from the car traffic. That way, the pedestrians can see the counter, and while doing that, will be looking left, which is the most relevant direction to look anyway. Being so close, the counter can be so small that drivers can not see it well from any distance. Only the front row of pedestrians need to see the counter, the rest will follow the herd anyway.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367517)

This article makes utterly no sense. It can't seem to decide (and I'm still not clear from reading it) on whether the countdown applies to tell the pedestrian how much longer he has to wait before he's allowed to cross; or how long he has remaining to get across safely.

"It alerts pedestrians to how much time they have to cross the road." implies they're talking about the drivers light being red, but turning green at the end of the pedestrians countdown.
"Drivers can see the timer too and as the timer starts winding down to two or three seconds the driver knows the traffic light is about to turn red and that makes some of them speed up to get through the intersection." implies they're talking about the drivers light being green, but turning red at the end of the countdown.

Little help, anyone?

Re:WTF? (1)

EdwardFurlong (3697195) | about 3 months ago | (#47367787)

It's how much longer they have to get across. If there is not enough time to get across they should not start crossing the road.

Authors are economists (1, Interesting)

McGruber (1417641) | about 3 months ago | (#47367527)

Sacha Kapoor and Arvind Magesan, the authors of the paper, are economists. Slashdot: How Often Do Economists Commit Misconduct? [slashdot.org]

Re:Authors are economists (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 3 months ago | (#47367813)

Do you think that economists are incapable of analyzing trends? Or that they're so narrowly educated that they can't have any interest in anything outside of the field of economics and that accident rates have no economic impact?

What's your point?

Cali... (5, Interesting)

bswarm (2540294) | about 3 months ago | (#47367545)

In Ca, it's a ticket if a car enters a crosswalk while a pedestrian is using it, no matter if they're on the other side of the intersection or not. And the new walk signals have a visor around them so unless you're almost directly in front of it, you can't read it. They also started using audio signals, which beep and talk, for the blind.

LOL No shit!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367553)

As a somewhat aggressive driver, I LOVE these countdown timers specifically for this reason. If I see the timer and I'm on the cusp of not making the light, then I go faster in hopes that I do make it.

Surely researchers didn't just figure this out?? I've been using them in this manner for several years.

subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367555)

Build a skyway.

The problem with traffic engineers... (5, Interesting)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 3 months ago | (#47367561)

...is they try to fix human behavior via engineering, but people can't really be engineered.

For example, in my home town we had a roundabout from hell. Five highways came into a loop via offramps. Literally once a week there would be an accident and once a month it was a fatal one.

So some brilliant traffic engineers tried to solve the problem by creating off ramps for each other highway. At highway A you could choose to offramp to highway B, C, or D. But the "offramps" used the roundabout, which now had concrete dividers about curb height. The mayor, the local press, and local government kept trumpeting how many lives this would save.

Well, turns out the only thing more dangerous then five highways going into a giant roundabout is five highways going into a roundabout with concrete dividers to slalom around. Accidents became a daily occurrence and fatalities went up.

As it turns out, people are stupid. Sure, if you are new to town and take the time to slow down to read the sign, and drive carefully, you can figure out where you're going. But people zip in at highway speeds, apply the brakes quickly, and try to swerve over.

The problem is not one of engineering, but one of behavior. Modifying the behavior (via police enforcement) would be more effective then a fancy solution.

Re:The problem with traffic engineers... (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 3 months ago | (#47367637)

Wish I had mod points, because this is the answer. A few years back the state I live in had a problem with drivers hitting, or almost hitting, road construction workers because they were speeding through construction zones. Their solution was to increase the penalties for speeding in a construction zone. Of course, they never considered the fact that there were rarely any police anywhere NEAR road construction zones, so the increased penalties had zero impact on the problem.

Re:The problem with traffic engineers... (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 3 months ago | (#47367775)

The problem with this kind of approach is that it isn't properly applied.

There is a large highway project going on near me. The work is all being done in the lane division area, with concrete barriers between it and the road. If you wanted to deliberately run a worker over you'd have a heck of a time coming up with a way to do it - it would probably involve reversing through entrance-ways and dodging parked cars to actually get at a person - maybe if you were literally driving in a tank you could get past the barrier.

And yet, it is marked as a construction zone, limited to 45mph (on a highway that normally is 65mph with exits every 10-30 miles), with all the usual warnings about increased fines and radar-equipped speed indicator signs.

All this sort of thing does is desensitize people to work areas. Everybody blasts through at 65mph at least, because there is no genuine safety issue. If for some reason they really did need to take down a barrier they'd have issues because people wouldn't realize there is actually something going on.

Most drivers are going to be conscientious. When I see a utility vehicle parked on the side of the road with cones, I slow down and carefully take a wide path around it, cognizant that somebody could step out from behind the truck at any time. When I have to navigate cones with people working on the road, I go slowly and carefully. If the signs gave me warning to expect that sort of thing up ahead I'd appreciate them. Instead they get left up nights and weekends when nobody is around, and even when people are around there is no safety issue.

Re:The problem with traffic engineers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367785)

speeding through construction zones

One of the problems I've seen though is that so many of our roads now have a seemingly permanent area "under construction" but with no roadside work being done. This conditions drivers to assume that construction is a natural part of the road and requires no special attention.

Then there are the places where work is actually being done but the idiots shine their super-bright floodlights right into the eyes of drivers; add in all the police cars with their blues flashing and it's a wonder any workers survive.

Re:The problem with traffic engineers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367729)

If drivers there are anything like Chicago drivers, all they need to do is put a speed bump or fake set of railroad tracks at the entry points to the roundabout and drivers would come to a screeching hault.

Re:The problem with traffic engineers... (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 3 months ago | (#47367833)

Not having five highways intersecting at one point would also solve the problem.

Check out Spaghetti Junction [goo.gl] in Birmingham, UK for a nightmare of a road design if you're not a local, and that's two "highways" (motorways) and two major roads (A-road). I can't imagine what your five highway junction looks like.

Re:The problem with traffic engineers... (4, Insightful)

twdorris (29395) | about 3 months ago | (#47367835)

As it turns out, people are stupid.

Truer words have never been spoken. People are stupid and you can't fix stupid. You'd think they'd weed themselves out eventually, but as it turns out, we're all people. And we're all stupid. We're just stupid at different times.

I've nearly run into the back of someone at a stop light when they started rolling forward and then suddenly slammed on the brakes because they didn't see a car coming into the intersection. I was glancing around checking for traffic I might have been concerned with and nearly ran into the back of him because I just assumed he was going to continue rolling forward like the hundreds of others before him I had been behind at other intersections.

A single moment of inattention and a single false assumption nearly caused a wreck. I was stupid. We're all stupid. We all need some engineered help against stupid from time to time. A sensor that detects an impending crash with something right in front of me would have helped. Lots of cars have these things now. That's an engineered solution to a moment of stupidity.

Not everything can be fixed with engineered solutions, but we can't assume modifying behavior is a fix-all either. In fact, I would give behavior modification a far less chance of success given how random and clueless we meatbags are.

So I vote for more engineered solutions, not less. But the solutions need to involved some human behavioral analysis as well. I mean who in their right minds couldn't have predicted that passing motorists would see these count down times and use them to speed through intersections? And who wouldn't have predicted that this would leave to an increase in accidents on average? Duh. That should have been taken into account and a different solution should have been investigated.

All that said, I also feel like we need to define some acceptable limits here. I mean we can't go making every single intersection 100% secure. If some accidents are happening at an intersection, let's talk about the *rate* and decide if that's just an acceptable rate or not. The fact that there are accidents or that accidents are happening a little more often now than they were before is a little meaningless without numbers to compare to. I find that we have FAR, FAR too many laws and regulations trying to bring fatalities and liabilities and accidents to near zero already.

Old news. More accidents != bad (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367593)

Before seatbelts people drove much more cautiously because they didn't want to be impaled by their steering column in a crash or tossed through their windshield to become stuck in a tree. Thus we introduce seatbelts and eventually legally require them for safety -- but what happened is car crashes skyrocketed because drivers felt safer while strapped in so everyone started driving more irresponsibly.

Re:Old news. More accidents != bad (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 3 months ago | (#47367793)

I dont know how much of an increase due to seat belts and other safety features was.... but fairs, carnivals, and amusement parks turned safe to collide vehicles into entertainment that involves people paying for the opportunity to colliding on purpose.

How about a sign (0)

mysidia (191772) | about 3 months ago | (#47367595)

Approaching the intersection: OBEY YOUR SIGNAL.
NO LOOKING AT PEDESTRIAN SIGNS.

Setup eye-tracking cameras on the pedestrian signs pointed at the street. Link to red-light camera.

Ticket in the mail for any driver caught staring towards the pedestrian sign.

Re:How about a sign (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 3 months ago | (#47367619)

Yes comrade. Where do I show you my papers?

Re:How about a sign (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367707)

Are you asian? Cause only asians drive looking straight ahead while completely ignoring all the people trying to pass because they're driving like shitheads.

Re:How about a sign (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | about 3 months ago | (#47367719)

For traffic lights that are really long, and I'm familiar with, I will often turn my engine off since I know I'm going to be going nowhere for >1min. The timer on the crosswalk sign gives me plenty of warning so I can start the engine and be ready to go.

Of course, this is hardly any different from just looking at the traffic light for the opposing direction - most of the time you can see it change to yellow, then red, and you know a few beats later your way will turn green. Drive the same route for more than a few days (e.g. your typical commute) and nearly anyone will know how the lights behave throughout the day and be able to predict them.
=Smidge=

Re:How about a sign (2)

Qzukk (229616) | about 3 months ago | (#47367735)

How about doing what other countries do and giving drivers our own damn timers to let us know when our lights are going to change?

Re:How about a sign (1)

Megane (129182) | about 3 months ago | (#47367845)

Setup eye-tracking cameras on the pedestrian signs

Are you going to use a zoom and enhance [youtube.com] camera for that?

Re: How about a sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367853)

If you do that in any city I live in I will take a baseball bat to it.

No such issue in Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367609)

Interestingly, there are no such issues in Europe. Probably it is better to learn about proper timing and blinking green light used in some countries.

Back to square one please (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 3 months ago | (#47367611)

Rather than accept that the latest fad has not helped and has other negative consequences, just like educatoin the powers that be instead wish to modify "tweak" "enahnce" the existing failure instead of reverting back to the original state and starting over.

Go back to the original walk/do not walk and add "run". No timers so nobody knows quite how long it lasts. ...

Re:Back to square one please (4, Informative)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 3 months ago | (#47367747)

It has helped. Can you not read or something?

The timers lowered the number of accidents involving pedestrians.

So the opposite of "not helped", it worked just fine.

However, in addition to reducing the number of pedestrian accidents it also increased the number of rear-end collisions.

how is that supposed to work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367625)

Drivers see them too, and it provides them with information on when the light will change. Then they anticipate the change by either speeding up to beat a change to red light, or anticipating a green light in order to get through before the pedestrians can move into the road.

Say I'm a driver, approaching an intersection, the countdown says I have 3 seconds so I speed up to make through the green. Where's the increased risk to a pedestrian, who, if they are going perpendicular to me, have a red light? Are they saying drivers are mis-judging it, and speeding up only to hit red? at which case, the pedestrian still LOOKS before crossing, no? I fail to see how it causes increased accidents or risks versus cars not being able to see it.The theory doesn't hold any water at all.

Re:how is that supposed to work? (1)

Zembar (803935) | about 3 months ago | (#47367789)

Well, you could RTFA and see that vehicle-to-vehicle collisions increased, not the vehicle/pedestrian incidents that, in fact, decreased.

Re:how is that supposed to work? (2)

Qzukk (229616) | about 3 months ago | (#47367797)

Actually, I've personally witnessed drivers screw up at these intersections by watching the wrong cues. A few months ago a driver rolled out into the middle of the intersection because they thought that when the cross traffic light turned red, our light would turn green (no, the left-turn only lane light goes first after cross traffic). I know that's what they did because I was watching the light too, except this is the last intersection before I get home so I know what the light pattern is. Because the light pattern changes depending on time of day and whatever bug crawled up the traffic engineer's ass that week, when you're watching the other lights, you still have to verify your light before you go.

Ideally we'd get our own countdown timer to let us know whenever the signal is going to change. Staring at a red light for 45 seconds is boring, you can go ahead and insist that we change human nature, or you can go with human nature and give us something to pay attention to.

Re:how is that supposed to work? (1)

EdwardFurlong (3697195) | about 3 months ago | (#47367803)

I don't think it's increased risk to the pedestrian it's more rear end crashes "The largest increase is in rear-end accidents and we think it's because two cars approaching a light, who both see the countdown, the guy behind, he sees the two or three seconds and thinks, oh, the guy in front of me is going to floor it too, I'll floor it and we'll both get through the intersection. Whereas the guy in front thinks, OK, I only have two or three seconds left, I'm going to slowdown. And this is exactly the type of accident that would happen in that case."

Re:how is that supposed to work? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 3 months ago | (#47367817)

When you are turning and hence going to drive across the pedestrian crossing that is counting down at that moment, which should be pretty obvious.

But you are completely changing the claim being made in the first place. There's no claim that there's an increase in accidents with pedestrians. The claim is simply that collisions between cars, in particular rear-end accidents, increase. They propose that this is due to drivers seeing the counters and trying to make it through before the lights change and running into the car in front of them that instead of doing the same thing just stopped at the lights as they changed.

Underpants Gnomes (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367641)

When it is time to cross the crosswalk the underpants gnomes jump out and steal your underwear, they then run to the other side of the road and furiously wave them at you yelling "Come and get them you scaredy chicken!" Then they put the underpants on their head like a roosters comb and tuck their fists into their armpits to mimic a chicken walk. So you run across the road to beat the living daylights out of the gnome and the gnomes immediately toss your underpants into the air and they make a run to the next available crosswalk, leaving you to scramble to pick up you underwear. After a short breather you realise you have successfully crossed the street.

Sorry for the troll but I am having a bad day and have to keep myself in check I post here.
I knew the underpants gnomes were useful for something.

Re:Underpants Gnomes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367725)

The car drivers of course are so stunned at what they have just seen that they cautiously wait before proceeding.
Accident rates fall to 0%

Risk compensation? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367643)

Could be some sort of risk compensation too. I believe the automobile safety industry is the only one that still refuses to acknowledge risk compensation. There's clear evidence things like seat belts just make people drive faster or more dangerously. They may make the occupants safer sometimes but just transfer the risk on to people with less protection like pedestrians and cyclists. See lots of great posts here http://www.john-adams.co.uk/2013/06/11/pater-knows-best/

Cyclists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367645)

Countdown timers are very useful for cyclists. It takes longer to pedal through an intersection than to drive through. if there's only a second or two before the light turns yellow, I usually slow down and stop instead of racing the yellow.

Devise a solution that informs very slow pedestrians and somewhat slow cyclists, but doesn't inform fast motorists.

Stupid senor and camera lights (1)

NetNed (955141) | about 3 months ago | (#47367649)

Couldn't it also be the camera and senor light that usually accompany these? It my area they have put these everywhere and I would have to say they are a utter failure. For one they have increased traffic, making "catching the light" next to impossible on most roads. Second, they changed the cycle of the lights to where one direction has a green and the opposite will have a red with no indication to the motorist on the red light side, especially the ones pulling out of corner gas stations and stores, that on coming traffic has a green light. I see at least 3 near hits a week at one on my drive in to work each morning and considering how close it's to the intersection, I would say it would be considered a intersection incident. Third, timing these lights is next to impossible. One close to my house when they first put it in would stay red for the more busy street for over 3 minutes (Once timed it at 4 minutes and 10 seconds early in the morning). When it was messed up I would see 5 to 6 people a week get tired of waiting and blow the red. Heck I did it more then once. So coming to one of these light, you never know when it's going to change. When there was no sensor or cameras, then timing the lights that were on a set timer was a lot easier. Now? Next to impossible.

Generally, no timers at RLC intersections... (1)

BUL2294 (1081735) | about 3 months ago | (#47367661)

One thing to note (and this is evil), often the red-light camera (RLC) intersections DON'T have the countdown timers.*** In Chicago, the RLC capital of the USA--with over 200 RLC intersections in the city alone, the vast majority don't have pedestrian countdown timers. In this city, revenue generation trumps pedestrian safety...

***As a driver, in my estimation, less than 10% of Chicago's RLC intersections have pedestrian countdown timers. To add, even in non-RLC intersections, the blinking "DON'T WALK" is shorter in the city than in the suburbs (old people won't make it across if they start to cross right before blinking DON'T WALK), except if the intersection has state-owned property abutting the intersection (e.g. a state university like UIC).

Hydraulic Bollards (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 months ago | (#47367667)

Simple: install hydraulic bollards in the road timed to match the auto signals. Bollards at the crossing start/stop can be closely spaced or electrified to keep back pedestrians. Bollards at the stop line should be capable of stopping a 3T vehicle at 60MPH without damage, though a set of raised tire-spikes might be sufficient deterrent.

Re:Hydraulic Bollards (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#47367841)

Simple: install hydraulic bollards in the road timed to match the auto signals. Bollards at the crossing start/stop can be closely spaced or electrified to keep back pedestrians. Bollards at the stop line should be capable of stopping a 3T vehicle at 60MPH without damage, though a set of raised tire-spikes might be sufficient deterrent.

They have raising bollards to stop people entering some town centres (access only for busses, taxis and other licensed vehicles). Every so often some know wants thinks they can beat the system by tailgaiting a bus or taxi through. However, it seems that the sensors can detect even a very small gap.

And the bollards are both fast and strong enough to lift a car with ease.

It is richly satisfying when one of those idiots gets stranded on a bollard with half of their car in the air.

Flawed study (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367679)

Many European countries have timers on all traffic lights INTENDED for drivers to see. Doesn't seem to be a problem there.

I love the countdown timers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367695)

They make driving safer, for me at least, since it gives an indication of whether I should maintain speed and continue through the intersection, or if I should start braking if the light is going to change imminently.

Simple Solution Already Existing and Implemented (1)

fygment (444210) | about 3 months ago | (#47367717)

In my city, there is a ~3 second difference between end of walk countdown and light going red, and light going green.
Put another way, there is a time period for every light change where _all_ the lights at the crossing are red.
Result: the yahoos trying to beat the red light are usually cleared through before a green light lets anyone else in to the intersection. (People run reds, but nobody appears to 'jump' green lights.)

Shared space (5, Interesting)

Hypotensive (2836435) | about 3 months ago | (#47367723)

A better solution might be to remove the signals altogether. Several European towns have tried shared-space experiments where there are no signals or markings and the pedestrians and vehicle drivers have to actually watch out for each other. In all such experiments so far, traffic fatalities have dropped significantly.

smaller sign (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367743)

Instead of a BIG sign across the street, make it a small sign on the corner you are on.

Don't blame the timers (1)

EdwardFurlong (3697195) | about 3 months ago | (#47367755)

Blame the stupid drivers, you can't fix stupid.

Re:Don't blame the timers (1)

RobinH (124750) | about 3 months ago | (#47367791)

Fixing stupid is what we've been doing in manufacturing plants for, oh, the last hundred years or so. We implements tons of systems that prevent or reduce human error. It works. It's not perfect, but quality improves when you put these systems in place. So you can fix stupid.

Re:Don't blame the timers (1)

EdwardFurlong (3697195) | about 3 months ago | (#47367851)

It's not really fixing stupid, it's keeping stupid people from hurting themselves, I just don't see the problem being the counter, the problem is people are so stupid they think the person in front of them is going to gun it through the light, they don't, and end up being rear ended.

Audio timers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367767)

Are a terrible idea. My daily commute involves intersections with these timers that are right next to people's houses. Cities are loud enough without Nazi computers adding to the noise pollution.

I use it for that (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 3 months ago | (#47367809)

but for the opposite. I slow down when I see I can't make the light because I drive an old car with less than prefect brakes. But then I'm lucky enough to have a job where if I"m 5 minutes late twice a year I don't get fired...

Timing is off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367829)

There was one of these at an intersection I drove through daily. The thing I always thought to be peculiar, was that the light would turn red while the countdown still had 2 seconds left. I noticed because I definitely ran a red light, thinking I had plenty of time to make it.

If the timers are set up like that one, then of course there are going to be many more accidents.

This sounds wrong, but... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47367863)

The most dangerous place to cross a street is at an intersection. Pedestrians have to look in 4 different directions to be sure no cars are going to hit them. Drivers have to consider the same 4 directions. But if you walk across the street half way between intersections, then you only have to consider cars coming from TWO directions. I did the math, and that's half as many ways you have to look.

As a pedestrian who nearly got hit recently (while crossing at an intersection, WITH a walk signal--and yes, I took the initiative and moved out of her way before she hit me), this has seemed obvious for quite a while now. I will admit that if we made this official, it would cause more work for drivers, as they would have to be on the lookout in twice as many places. But it beats getting hit.

Think of it this way: It's not jaywalking, it's civil disobedience! There, much more amenable to slashdotters! 8-)

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