In New Zealand, asked my 15-year-old nephew Chris, do traffic lights have the sequence red, orange then green?
Following the recent Frankfurt motor show, I’d taken some annual leave and detoured to Northern Ireland to visit my brother and his family.
Driving around Belfast, geography-mad Chris quizzed me about New Zealand’s road rules. He pointed out in Northern Ireland, like many countries, the traffic light sequence goes green-orange-red then red-orange-green, giving drivers a heads-up that the lights are about to change.
“No, Chris,” I replied, “because if we had that option many drivers would take off on the orange.”
He laughed but I wasn’t joking.
Red-light runners in our cities are bad enough. Many of us witness every day, making most of us hesitate a second or two when the light turns green in our favour.
So imagine what would happen if you gave drivers the chance to take off earlier than the green. Chaos and crashes would ensue.
My theory, unfortunately, was brought home to me recently when a cyclist went through a red light and hit my son, Henry, as he was walking across a major Auckland road on a controlled intersection.
Henry had checked for cars before crossing on the ‘green man’ but the cyclist — going at fair speed — ignored the red light and sped through, colliding with my son, knocking him down, and falling off his bike in the process.
Luckily my daughter was a few steps behind and helped her brother off the ground — while yelling at the cyclist, sitting on the ground: “You went through a red light!”
My son was bruised, badly grazed down one side and shaken up by the incident.
The cyclist didn’t apologise, and didn’t try to help him, although four lanes of traffic were about to descend on Henry.