We are talking about traffic lights, the cause of more than 10 percent of traffic delays, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. There are certainly environmental risks associated with sitting in traffic -- air pollution, fuel consumption -- but there are safety risks as well. The more people wait, the more likely they are to be impatient when their turn comes. Impatience, frustration and exasperation can easily cloud a driver's judgment.
For the past 20 years, cities around the country have been using adaptive traffic control systems. These "smart" traffic lights do not operate on a schedule. They respond to traffic conditions. Construction ahead? The light's timing mechanism will adjust to accommodate the slowdown. Bad weather, accidents, rush hour -- the system can help to improve traffic flow in both expected and unusual circumstances.