The technology behind traffic safety cameras has come a long way in recent years. The government-sponsored traffic paparazzi started out as speed-triggered snappers of vehicle mug shots for the purpose of financially punishing the driver in order to make the roads a safer place to be. Allegedly. Then came the red-light cameras. Same story. Rather than generate revenue, it’s about time the cameras were used to actually make the roads safer.
Red-light cameras can now take video footage of the seconds leading up to and including the collisions resulting from some idiot running a red light. This is irrefutable evidence used in court to prosecute said idiot — assuming it’s still alive. The cameras also double as speed cameras and can snap vehicles speeding to get through on the amber.
Technology today is so advanced that the focus can be directed to the actual safety these cameras allegedly promote as well as keeping the evidence-gathering and prosecution tasks of today. These camera systems can be made to intelligently monitor intersections and modify the behaviour of drivers in the event of unusual traffic conditions.
One simple example is to not change the other lights to green if a vehicle is detected approaching a just-turned-red light at such a speed that it won’t stop in time. This should reduce the majority of red light accidents where the vehicle runs the red in the first few seconds after changing.
Even while lights are green, a camera system could detect approaching speeders from the cross road and perhaps rapidly flash the green lights amber until the danger has subsided. Or even initiate a change to red. This would give drivers valuable seconds to take evasive action in case of an approaching red light runner. Now that most traffic signals use LED’s instead of the slow fading incandescent lights this is easily implemented. A rapid flash of 4 to 10 Hz would easily distinguish from the slower amber flash mode used for fault conditions or manual operation used by the police.
Of course there are problems with this approach. Drivers might be shocked and panicked into performing dangerous manoeuvres themselves upon seeing green lights suddenly start flashing rapidly amber. Obviously driver training will be required.
Fast-approaching emergency vehicles would automatically trigger the rapid amber flash and alert, say, earphone-wearing drivers who may not be fully aware of their surroundings, to the presence of the emergency vehicle which might otherwise be attending their own accident.
I’m surprised this hasn’t been done yet. Would state governments and other responsible agencies go this way? I believe there is a good chance this will help reduce accidents at controlled intersections and even prevent injuries and save lives. Governments can interpret this as saving money if they wish and rest assured they will still maintain their fine revenue.
What do you think?