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Brittany Lawonn, Published December 17 2008

Countdown stoplights aid drivers, pedestrians

Knowing how much time a driver has before that traffic light turns from green to red isn’t always easy.

But countdown signals in Fargo that were initially put into place for pedestrians are helping drivers know whether to hit the brakes.

“In my opinion, it aids the driver as to if they’ll be able to make the light or not,” Fargo Traffic Engineer Jeremy Gordon said.

The countdown signals originally were put into place to better inform pedestrians deciding whether or not they had enough time to cross. The flashing hand signals currently used at most lights to warn pedestrians not to cross can be confusing, Gordon said. But the new countdown signals allows pedestrian to know exactly how much time they have until the light will switch from green to yellow.

Fargo Traffic Safety Unit Sgt. Mike Mitchell said he is unsure how the countdown lights have impacted traffic accidents around the city, but he feels they’ve mostly been useful.

“I know people do look at them and then they can anticipate when the light’s going to turn,” Mitchell said, adding the countdown is more helpful than a yellow warning light.

The signals are being installed with each new traffic light that is put up, which will soon be required under federal law, Gordon said.

The first countdown signals were installed at the intersection of 13th Avenue and 42nd Street South.

There are currently about a dozen signals in the area, with additional signals being added when older lights are retrofitted, Gordon said.

Each signal costs about $400, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541