Think back to when you were a kid. You were taught over and over again how to safely cross the street. As we got older and had kids of our own, we taught them the same things. We wanted to be good pedestrians and for that matter, safe pedestrians. Once we began to drive we used the same knowledge from being a pedestrian to become a driver, but was that really a good idea?
For years many drivers often relied upon the crosswalk lights to let them as drivers know if the traffic light was about to change. Not really a good idea. The pedestrian crosswalk light is for the pedestrians; not the drivers of vehicles. I would often see drivers I’m training reducing their speed just because the “don’t walk” hand was flashing. Umm, that light is letting pedestrians know they shouldn’t attempt to cross the road if they haven’t already started. Oh, and by the way, while the “don’t walk” light is flashing, the traffic light is still green. So in reality you’re slowing down for a green light. Sounds silly now doesn’t it?
With many jurisdictions now using “countdown lights” to let pedestrians know how much time they have to clear the crosswalk and perhaps even letting pedestrians decide not to enter the crosswalk at all. These countdown lights are helping reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities in many jurisdictions. However, many drivers are using that same technology to help them determine if they have time to clear the intersection. But that may be a whole other wrong.
To avoid getting a ticket for running a red light, many drivers are hitting the gas to help them clear the intersection before the traffic light changes from green to yellow (amber). However those actions can affect other drivers who may be turning left across their path. It can create a collision or close call to say the least because the gap they thought was large enough to turn through has gotten smaller much quicker. Besides, speeding up to “make the light” is never worth it as the time you would save is never enough. If drivers are accelerating toward an intersection because of what the numbers show them, they will have less time to take corrective action to avoid a pedestrian, and have less control of their vehicle.
The other problem that I’ve seen are when drivers slow down thinking they don’t have enough time to get through the intersection. Again; slowing down for a green light for no apparent reason is never a good idea. It confuses the drivers in the opposite direction who may want to turn across your path. It can also frustrate the drivers behind. Here’s a few other thoughts; http://www.ctvnews.ca/autos/countdown-crosswalk-signals-leading-to-more-crashes-study-1.1233782
So here’s the plan; let pedestrians use the crosswalk symbols and countdown numbers for their purpose and you as a driver use the traffic lights for your purpose. Look ahead and make the decision whether to stop or proceed if the light changes from green before it changes. If you need a little more help to determine if you should stop or not if the green light changes, this will help you http://bit.ly/9mdwbB instead of a few numbers in the crosswalk.