Tweak traffic lights to highlight pedestrians' right of way

A common feature on our roads is the pedestrian's right of way at a traffic junction.

A driver wishing to make a turn must wait until the pedestrian has safely crossed before moving forward.The pedestrian's right is implicit, as the traffic light does not signal to the driver when he can make the turn.

There is an obvious risk in this, as drivers are often more concerned with traffic coming from the opposite direction, resulting in reduced attention to pedestrians crossing.

This is exacerbated by a disparity between the driver's line of sight and the pedestrians', as well as a wish of drivers to "beat" the light.

One way to mitigate this risk is to program our traffic lights at junctions to explicitly display a red stop arrow to prevent vehicles from turning until the traffic from the opposite direction stops and pedestrians have crossed safely.

To prevent drivers from having to wait unnecessarily, the traffic lights can be set to display the red stop arrow only if there are pedestrians wishing to cross the road.

Certainly, drivers should be aware and look out for pedestrians at road junctions. Nonetheless, preventive measures, such as a simple tweaking of our traffic lights, that avoid a loss of life are always worth a relook.

I urge the Land Transport Authority to look into this matter.

Chai Ming Jie

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Tweak traffic lights to highlight pedestrians' right of way'. Print Edition | Subscribe