"Use Street Smarts to Rethink Traffic Safety
Despite everything we’ve been told, stoplights on neighborhood streets often put pedestrians and motorists in peril How many times has this happened to you? You’re waiting at an intersection — on foot or in a car — and as you start to cross after the light turns green, a car almost clobbers you as it races through the red light.
Stoplights probably do more to encourage lawless and dangerous behavior than any invention since the pistol. Think about it. You see a stoplight in the distance when you’re driving and naturally hurry up, usually exceeding the speed limit, so you don’t have to stop.
It’s a human instinct, even among normally safe drivers who care about pedestrian safety. A stop sign sends a much different message and works on drivers’ instincts in an entirely different way. You know you must stop, so there’s no incentive to speed. But you also know that soon you’ll be able to move again.
At a stoplight, in contrast, you may be stuck for more than a minute waiting for various turn arrows to run through their cycles. It’s aggravating to sit still for so long, and you would do almost anything to avoid it — including driving recklessly fast and barreling through an intersection after the light has turned red.
Switching many stoplights to four-way stop signs will make the streets safer, quieter, and more pleasurable for both pedestrians and motorists. Yet, incredibly, many traffic engineers oppose this idea, claiming it’s unsafe.
“According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) all-way stop intersections [usually 4-way stop signs] have the best safety record, with half as many accidents as those controlled by two-way stops or signals [stoplights].” Traffic engineers in Philadelphia confirmed this when they replaced 800 stoplights with four-way stops.