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Study: Stoplight countdown timers lead to safe driving habits

Is this the way to go for all intersections?
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In case you missed it, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) recently bared plans to shift from stoplights with countdown timers to a new adaptive traffic light system. Studies show, however, that there are still benefits to relying on countdown timers when it comes to safety.

In a study shared by Oregon State University (OSU) back in 2017, researchers found that traffic lights equipped with countdown timers helped motorists make safer decisions at intersections.

The study used a traffic light with a countdown timer that indicated the ‘go’ signal’s final 10 seconds. A pool of 55 drivers was able to produce a data set of 1,100 “intersection interactions”—half of which occurred with the involvement of a countdown timer.

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Report: The MMDA is ditching countdown timers in favor of an adaptive stoplight system

Countdown timers help drivers make safer decisions

Cars passing through an intersection

According to the study’s data, the presence of a countdown timer made it 13% more likely that a motorist would stop at a dilemma zone, which is a point wherein a driver is unsure of whether or not to proceed at a yellow light. Deceleration rates also improved by 0.45 meters per second.

“When looking at driver response, deceleration rates were more gentle when presented with the countdown timers, and we did not find that drivers accelerated to try to beat the light—those are positives for safety,” OSU transportation engineering researcher David Hurwitz said.

“Drivers were significantly more likely to slow down and stop when caught in the dilemma zone. The results in the lab were really consistent and statistically convincing,” he added.

You can check out the 2017 study in its entirety here. So, do you think the MMDA should do away with countdown timers in favor of a more advanced traffic light system? Or should the agency focus on equipping more intersections with the feature?

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