x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Flashing green signals confusing motorists

Flashing green lights intended to warn drivers that the signal is about to change could be confusing many motorists, a road safety expert warned yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Flashing green lights intended to warn drivers that the signal is about to change could be confusing many motorists, a road safety expert warned yesterday. Mohammed el Sadig, research co-ordinator for the Roadway, Transportation and Traffic Safety Research Centre in Al Ain, said police should educate motorists on the purpose of the flashing green, a function that has recently been added to some traffic signals.

In a pilot project late last year, the flashing green setting was introduced at a signal near Maqta bridge. It flashes briefly before the light turns amber and then red. At the time, planners at Abu Dhabi Municipality said the idea was to give motorists more notice that they needed to slow down. Since then, the function has been added to other signals and Mr el Sadig says motorists needed to be educated about what it means.

"You don't know if people should speed up to catch the signal, or should take a warning to go at a slow speed because the signal is going to change," he said. "It looks simple but it is not, I think, in reality. I think we have to alert the driver either to speed up or slow down." Mr el Sadig recommended that police run an awareness campaign to get the message across to motorists, and said he supported plans by Abu Dhabi Police to install cameras at every signal-controlled junction in the city.

"I think it is known that jumping the red signal is very dangerous," he said. "It is a good intervention at least to warn everybody who might do it that they can be caught, whether they get into a crash or not." The driver's handbooks from both the Emirates Driving Institute and Emirates Driving Company are clear on what drivers should do when they face a green, red, amber and intermittent amber signal. However, neither gives instructions on the appropriate response to a flashing green light.

Yesterday motorists in Abu Dhabi offered various interpretations of the flashing green signals they encountered. Nasswer Mahamoud, a Pakistani who has lived in Abu Dhabi for seven years, said he did not know what he was expected to do, while David Penfold, from England, said he prepared to stop when he saw the green light flashing. Jonothan Ermino, from the Philippines, said he thought the flashing green meant he should stop "because first it will be permanent, and then it will be flashing because another car is going".

Planners and police have been taking steps to improve safety at junctions over the past year. In addition to the flashing green signals, the municipality has laid down yellow-box junctions at some intersections, which motorists must not enter unless their exits are clear. Lt Col Hussein al Harthei, head of Abu Dhabi Police's traffic engineering and road safety department, said "black spots" for red-light jumping included the junction of Airport Road and 23rd Street and the intersection near the Choithram supermarket in Khalidiya.

The penalty for jumping a red signal is Dh800 (US$218), plus eight black points and loss of the vehicle for 15 days. mchung@thenational.ae