Lessons from Germany's traffic lights

Flow of traffic lights

Flow of traffic lights

Set gear…it’s green soon!


A while ago I drove through Germany by car. Apart from the zones on the express way where there’s no speed limit, I was pleased with the way traffic lights work in Germany.

How do they work?
When the light is red it first jumps shortly to orange before it turns green. The traffic lights in my country do not do that. They only use orange in between green and red. Not in between red and green. I believe however, using orange in the “start-flow” of city traffic brings along certain advantages.

Advantage 1: traffic flow optimized

When it’s red and the cars are waiting, it often occurs that it takes over 5 seconds for the traffic to move again (after the lights have jumped to green). When you put orange in between , drivers know: “set to first gear, you can drive soon”. This improves the traffic flow because people are not longer hesitating on “red” but instead on “orange”. This could result in drivers being less frustrated by traffic. In the end: happier people in a non-aggressive city environment?

Advantage 2: save your car’s gearbox

Another advantage of this traffic light system is that you don’t screw your gearbox that easily. Hasty people are often in 1st gear while waiting and thus have to push down their left feed pedal continuously. Not that good actually for technology inside the car.

Advantage 3: improves ecology and economy of driving?

I’m not completely sure about that but using the “neutral” gear more effectively improves in a more economic and ecologic way of driving?

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