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Are we Just Counting Down to an Accident?


You've probably seen them - the new pedestrian crosswalk signals - complete with a countdown timer. The timer is designed to let drivers and pedestrians know how much time is left before the light switches from green to amber.

These new timer crossings are starting to appear in busy spots around the city, as well as replacements to the old pedestrian crosswalk lights.

Similar systems have also been installed in a number of US cities, including Washington and San Fransisco. Like those cities, Toronto officials hope that the new lights will help cut down on the 200 plus accidents involving pedestrians that occur each month.

But is that really the case?

While its too soon to tell if the new systems will really help to cut down on cars clipping walkers while rushing to beat the light, reactions are already starting to flow in. And it's not looking so good for the bipedal travelers.

According to several stories quoting driver's reactions to the new lights, the opposite effect might be taking place to what has been hoped for. Drivers are using the countdown timers to effectively gauge whether they should speed up to beat the amber light, not stop to avoid a potential accident.

And pedestrian aren't any better. I only say that from my own experience, mind you. So far, I haven't changed my habits at all. As I see the timer wind down, I think to myself "oh yeah, I've still got time. Its not yellow yet". And I'm not the only one.

I can see it now: a sick game called "beat the clock". I don't think I'd like to loose that one.

Its going to take more than a timer to get anyone on the road (or sidewalk) to change their habits. Lets just hope this doesn't make the problem worse.

blogTO flickr pool photo courtesy of sjgardiner


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