Traffic lights are not only expensive to install, they are a significant source of accidents to motorists and pedestrians. A modern signal can cost taxpayers between $80,000 and $100,000 to install. Plus the cost of the electrical power to operate a signalized intersection 24 hours a day, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation, is now averaging about $1,400 per year.
Traffic signal-controlled intersections are not safe. How often did you have a near miss accident as you were entering a local intersection on green, when someone on the cross street blew through red at high speed right in front of your nose?
Studies show that traffic signal-controlled intersections are not nearly as safe as roundabouts or multi-way stop sign-controlled intersections. At a four-lane intersection like the one under construction at University and Grand Avenue, there are 32 vehicle conflict points versus only 8 in a roundabout (Source: the Wisconsin DOT). Crashes in traffic signal intersections are also more often fatal because of higher speeds. Oftentimes drivers “step on it” to speed up and make it through the light as the light changes to yellow.
The Delaware Office of Highway Safety in 2009 published a comparison between traffic signal- and stop sign-controlled intersections. At a stop
sign the driver has to make two decisions:
He must stop, and he must yield the right-of-way.
By comparison, when approaching a traffic signal the driver has to
make eight decisions:
Interpret signal color, guess how long in color, slow or continue on yellow, guess what the driver in front will do, make decisions at high speed, and guess other drivers’ arrivals and speeds.
In recognition of the cost of installation and perpetual operation expense as well as the high risk of accidents, many European cities have removed traffic signals and replaced them with roundabouts or multi-way-stop-signs.
Las Vegas has a number of traffic signals that could easily be replaced by stop signs such as on Douglas and Sixth, Seventh and Eighth streets. The stop sign controlled intersection of University and Grand is currently a pretty safe place. Wait times are short, which saves time and gas, everybody has to come to a stop and observe. I have not had a single bad experience since the old traffic signal went down some time ago. I would be very curious to know how many accidents actually occurred at that intersection and how severe they were.