It turns out that there is a simple secret to many traffic lights.

May 08, 2020

Traffic engineers are those folks tasked with moving all of us around the city as efficiently as possible. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t want you sitting at lots of long red lights, because stopped traffic causes congestion, wastes gas, increases carbon monoxide, and gets some people lathered up in red light rage.

So what is the key to getting more green lights on your commute?

Surprisingly, it is as simple as going the speed limit. It turns out that on many major arteries in most cities, going at or just below the speed limit will help you get more green lights. Gunning it from one light to the next puts you ahead of the light’s cycle and usually makes you get more red lights.

This doesn’t always work, because sometimes, emergency vehicles, traffic entering from side streets, or large volumes of traffic heading to or coming from special events can throw your timing off on the thoroughfares.

Another tip we discovered involves “tripping” the lights.

Have you ever stopped at an intersection with no one else around, and the light seems to “know” that you are there? That is because many intersections use a loop detector, which is a wire positioned under the pavement to detect when a car is above it. Once the car is detected, an electric field is created that signals the light to change. If you stop too far into the intersection or not close enough, you can miss the detector. Your best bet is to stop about a foot behind the white line.

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