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Paris traffic lights are being switched off

French capital is looking to get rid of traffic lights in a bid to reduce jams and accidents. 

The mairie is to test a scheme where streets would make more use of give-way junctions, 30kph zones, roundabouts and… the priorité à droite. The aim is to make drivers more aware of the road and other users rather than concentrating on the traffic light.

France has about 30,000 traffic light junctions but 10,000 accidents happen at them each year – 14% of accidents – with 150 people killed and 1,200 injured each year. Excess speed is the main cause of accidents and one third are where drivers ignore a red light.

Several towns including Abbeville, Bordeaux, Nantes, Niort, Rouen and Toulouse have already reduced the number of red lights and have seen a reduction in traffic jams and fewer accidents.

Bordeaux has started redesigning streets to get rid of traffic lights after councillors were told 27 of the city’s 28 most dangerous junctions were fitted with traffic lights. 

City infrastructure director Sébastien Dabadie told journalists they had removed lights from 40 junctions and planned to raise that to 200 by the end of 2018. He said it was a matter of road safety, because “junctions are the only system under the Code de la Route where the pedestrian does not have priority”.

Now the city has improved safety at pedestrian crossings by putting in central islands or putting them on a section of road raised to pavement level to show drivers they are entering a pedestrian zone and must slow down.

Traffic jams of several hundred yards are an everyday occurrence at many Paris junctions and Anne Souyris, joint chairperson of the ecology group, told Le Parisien: “Studies show that when you get rid of traffic lights at certain junctions drivers’ waiting time is halved and there are fewer deaths because drivers have a tendency to slow down."

And her colleague David Belliard said drivers paid no attention to pedestrians, cyclists or even other vehicles at traffic lights, concentrating only on the lights changing.

Ms Souyris added that there was also an economic saving as each junction would use about seven or eight traffic lights and each cost about €500 a year to maintain and power. 

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