Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Safety

To Make Streets Safer, Seattle May Get Rid of Traffic Signals

4:06 PM EST on February 9, 2017

In Philadelphia, crashes declined 24 percent after stop signs replaced signals at 200 intersections. Image: Google Street View

Here's an intriguing idea to make city streets safer. Seattle is reviewing 10 intersections to see if traffic signals should be replaced with four-way stops.

Signalized intersections carry special risks. Drivers often accelerate into the intersection during the yellow phase to "beat the light," for instance, leading to high-speed crashes. The Federal Highway Administration warns that improperly placed signals may "significantly increase collisions" [PDF, page 9-35].

One alternative to signals is a roundabout, in which traffic entering the intersection is deflected by a center island, and incoming drivers yield to traffic in the circle. One study cited by the FHWA found that crashes with injuries declined 78 percent at nine intersections after signals were replaced with roundabouts.

Another option is the basic four-way stop, which is more common in America.

In a study of 200 signalized intersections in Philadelphia where one-way streets converged, replacing the signals with stop signs led to a 24 percent reduction in crashes, according to FHWA. Crashes involving pedestrians fell 17 percent, and nighttime collisions involving pedestrians declined 46 percent.

Even though signals cost more to install and operate than stop signs, many intersections in American cities are signalized when public safety would be better served by stop signs or roundabouts.

Seattle is seeking suggestions about which signalized intersections should studied for conversion to four-way stops and will evaluate whether to proceed on a case-by-case basis. If the pilot is successful the program may be continued, said city traffic engineer Dongho Chang.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

NYC Debuts Public E-Bike Charging for Delivery Workers

Finally, they’re taking charge! The city’s first public e-bike charging station opened in Cooper Square on Thursday — the start of an overdue six-month pilot that is part of a “Charge Safe Ride Safe Action Plan” for delivery workers that Mayor Adams announced last year.

March 1, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Have Questions

What's an optimal rebate to get people to buy e-bikes without wasting money on those who were going to buy one anyway?

March 1, 2024

To Recruit Transit Workers, More Than Just Higher Pay Is Needed

Labor shortages continue threatening public transit systems, and a new report adds another layer to the conversation.

February 29, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: Streets for Skateboards

Aaron Breetwor on skateboards for transportation and designing streets for safer skateboarding.

February 29, 2024

Agencies Need to Use Federal Funding to Buy Land for Transit Oriented Development

Transit agencies do not prioritize transit-adjacent housing development often because they lack funding to acquire land.

February 29, 2024
See all posts