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Traffic Lights Are Not Safety Devices — By Tommy Purser

There was much hullabaloo several years back from people who wanted a traffic light installed at the intersection of Miller and Coffee streets. Concerned citizens came to a City Council meeting to lobby for the light when I was a member of the City Council.

I explained to them that a traffic light is not a safety device …. it is a traffic-control device. I also explained that Department of Transportation (GDOT) officials had studied the intersection and determined a traffic light was not warranted and, in fact, would make the intersection more dangerous.

My fear then was that, with “walk/don’t walk” signs, some child would trust the signs and walk into the intersection without looking. And if a vehicle ran the traffic, and the child was killed ……

Numerous studies have shown that the reason traffic control devices aren’t installed more frequently is simple: They tend to make streets less safe, not more.

Traffic lights don’t do a lot for speeding, because there’s a tendency for drivers to make up for the lost time. That can lead to increased speeds midblock. And side street speeds actually increase. When cars see the green light, they may floor it.

A study revealed that when traffic signals were introduced as a result of political pressure, crashes rose by 65 percent where unwarranted signals were installed.

The traffic light at the intersection of Miller and Coffee streets was deemed unnecessary by GDOT. The City is moving forward with the project despite GDOT’s concerns. The decision to place the light at that intersection was a political decision, not a fact-based decision. As a result, GDOT will not pay the $150,000-plus cost of the traffic light.

City taxpayers will pay for it.

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