traffic lightsPA

We may not give them much thought, but traffic lights perform a vital role in keeping the country moving - acting as guardian of the four-way-crossing, negotiator of road works, and etcetera.

It seems Sir Simon Jenkins doesn't agree - opening up to the Reader's Digest on the matter; even dusting off his tinfoil hat to brand them a form of state control.

"I'd tear down 90 per cent of traffic lights," he told the publication. "They are merely ways in which the state exerts control over us.

Jenkins also described the systems as "dangerous", suggesting that they in fact cause collisions rather than prevent them.

"Most accidents take place at traffic lights because everyone is looking at the lights and not other road users", he said.

"We're obsessed with traffic lights in Britain, and in London there's a light practically every 30 yards, mostly with a clear street ahead. They're a very inefficient way of enabling road users to get around."

Sir Simon's calls have been met with resounding disapproval from motoring groups - the RAC's technical director David Bizley weighing in to The Daily Mail on the matter.

"There is growing evidence that in many high streets and densely populated urban areas, a simplification of traffic control would be beneficial in terms of cutting accident numbers and improving the flow of traffic.

PA


"However, the majority of traffic lights fulfil an important safety role for both road users and pedestrians. In many situations the removal of traffic lights would actually do more harm than good by causing far greater congestion, because it would take away the ability to control traffic flows to reflect changing demand patterns."

Similarly, also speaking to the Mail, Kevin Clinton of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents didn't approve of the plans.

"Although there may be some that could be removed or changed without causing too many problems, removing most of them would cause gridlock and result in more, not fewer, accidents."

"It is incorrect to say that most accidents occur at traffic lights, and when accidents do happen at traffic light junctions, it is not because drivers are distracted by looking at the lights. There are many causes - running the red light, approaching too fast, not anticipating that the lights will change, following too closely, pedestrians stepping out without looking, to mention a few."

Not all motoring groups are so resolutely against the Sir Simon's views. AA president Edmund King tweeted AOL Cars saying: "Some work [traffic lights] well – ie. Hyde Park Corner lights. But other lights could be turned off at night, sometimes on mini roundabout etc"

Do traffic lights frustrate you? Think we'd be better off scrapping them? Weigh in with your comments below.