Swindon to trial traffic lights as speed controllers

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Swindon is to trial a system that will use traffic lights that turn red if a speeding driver is approaching.

A sensor will determine if a car is travelling over the speed limit and switch the lights up ahead to red before it arrives.

Swindon council is thought to be the first to trial such a system in the UK, although similar systems are already used in European countries such as France and Spain. The trial comes two years after the Conservative council in Swindon switched off all of its fixed location speed cameras in 2009.

Councillor Peter Greenhalgh, cabinet member for transport, said: "We've seen it working elsewhere in Europe and what it does is it destabilises the driver.

"Frequently you see drivers just concentrating on themselves rather than what's happening in front of them. What this does is it takes those drivers out of that comfort zone and makes them concentrate on what's actually happening ahead."

Drivers will not be told the reason for the lights turning red, and nor will they be told the precise location of the lights that will use the new system.

Councillor Greenhalgh said: "The whole key is to monitor driver behaviour without beating them over the head.

"It may annoy them, but I think eventually people will work out that if they maintain a constant speed at or around the speed limit then actually their journey times will be much shorter because they won't be getting delayed by traffic lights."

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at The AA said that the scheme could be beneficial, but warned of the dangers of reducing respect for traffic lights.

"We must make sure there is still respect for traffic lights," he said.

"Red light running has always been a problem; we have to put cameras up to stop people running lights. If it does lower, even marginally, the support for red lights then that is the downside."

However, he said that it was a scheme that was worth investigating, saying: "Nearly everything in road safety is worth trialling."