Welcome to the last instalment of How Our Roads Came To Be.

approaching traffic lights

Roundabouts replace crossroads and required the car entering to give way to the traffic on the roundabout which was fine when the traffic was relatively light. But consider that, nowadays at a normal roundabout you will have four roads feeding traffic into a small space. It’s understandable how they can go into gridlock.

Our most effective solution is traffic lights. The meaning of the lights is universally recognised. You can be colour blind and still know which light is which as they each have their own position. The interesting light is the one in the middle, the yellow one. As we approach and the light goes yellow do we stop or go. This is called the dilemma zone and where mirrors pay off.

Lights can be programmed to allow for the peaks and troughs of traffic flow. They can be linked and respond to traffic conditions so the flow cascades down the road. Emergency service vehicles can be given priority by transmitting a signal to the lights allowing them through.

All in all, they connect us as drivers because we need to use them in the same way this gives us a shared experience and commonality. They are how we cooperate with each other for the greater good.

Without our smooth roads, speed limits, road signs, markings on the road and traffic lights our roads today would be a very different and a lot more dangerous. All these things are not there to slow us down, they’re there to keep us safe and to keep things running smoothly.