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Removing 80% of traffic lights could boost economy and road safety, says think-tank

That’s according to new research by the Institute of Economic Affairs, which says that a “huge proliferation in traffic regulations over the past 20 years has imposed a heavy burden on the economy”.

The research finds that just a two-minute delay to every car journey equates to a loss of approximately £16bn every year, equivalent to almost 1% of GDP.

The research has also found that the number of traffic lights in England has increased by 25% since 2000. By comparison, vehicle traffic rose by 5%, and the length of the road network by just 1.3% in the same period.

Dr Richard Wellings, head of transport at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “For too long policymakers have failed to make a cost-benefit analysis of a range of regulations – including traffic lights, speed cameras and bus lanes – making life a misery from drivers nationwide. It’s quite clear that traffic management has spread far beyond the locations where it might be justified, to the detriment of the economy, environment and road safety.

“The evidence of shared space schemes shows the transformational benefits of less regulated approach, whilst the removal of a high proportion of traffic lights would deliver substantial economic and social benefits.”

RAC spokesman Simon Williams added: “The use of traffic lights should always involve careful consideration on a case-by-case basis. There are many situations where their use is vital, both for traffic flow and road safety so any indication that all traffic lights should be turned off would likely do far more harm than good. However, identifying lights that may adversely be affecting traffic flow for further 'switching off' trials would be worth exploring.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.