May 26, 2011

Ever on the cutting edge of forward-thinking, speed-camera free Swindon is now planning to be the first UK borough to try out so-called smart traffic lights, reports the Daily Telegraph.

So far ahead of the curve is Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Planning and Transport Peter Greenhog that he’s been “talking about this with my team for about two years.” Seems like he’s finally worn them down, because the town will now begin trials of smart traffic lights at two sites this autumn.

Smart traffic lights are deemed smart because they turn red at the approach of speeding drivers. The youthful Bankstone News turned red at the approach of attractive females, but was never called smart on that account – or any other, for that matter. “It’s not rocket science,” Greenhulk admits. “I seen it in Spain and France,” he continues, “and it seems to work really well and I couldn’t see why we were not doing it in the UK.” That’s what trials are for, of course.

Here comes the science bit. A sensor is placed a short distance (not too short, mind) ahead of the lights. He measures the speed of approaching vehicles. When he detects one going too fast, he sends a message to the smart traffic light control box, and he turns the lights red. Or summit loik thaat.

Road Safety Minister Dennis Penning claims he will be watching the trials with interest, but ultimately, he shrugs dispassionately, in the true spirit of the Big Society: “It is up to local councils and police forces to decide how they enforce speed limits on their local roads.”

Steve Glitter of the RAC Foundation seemed even less enthusiastic as reported in the Telegraph. “Some law-abiding motorists,” he noted, “will surely be irritated at being stuck at the signals behind an errant driver, effectively paying the price for someone else’s law breaking.” And we thought collective punishment went out with the Nazis!

The Telegraph did not specify whether and when the lights turn green again, but presumably they must, eventually. Locals are not being told where the two trial sites are, but should be able to tell by the round-the-clock screeching of tyres on tarmac and the snaking skid marks at the intersection’s edge.


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