The Importance of Traffic Signal Controllers

Red light, green light: you probably rely on traffic signals every day, but have you ever considered just why they’re so important? While not every intersection needs them, they do an important job of regulating traffic, protecting pedestrians and reducing congestion, and traffic control part manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve the technology.

Traffic signals used to be operated by hand, but as traffic increased and multiple officers were needed to run the lights, the system became more complex. Automated, timed lights have been around for decades. These rely on traffic signal controllers, which are programmed and timed to increase efficiency and reduce congestion.

Challenges for traffic signal controllers

Here’s an overview of the importance and future of traffic signal controllers in today’s environment:

  • Increased congestion: There are more people on the road than ever. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in an area with great public transportation or walkability, there’s a good chance you rely on your vehicle for everyday tasks. Unfortunately, the more people on the road, the more traffic congestion we will experience. Four-way stops just don’t cut it when thousands or tens of thousands of cars pass through an intersection daily. Traffic signals have to be timed to maintain the flow of traffic—including increased congestion.
  • Road capacity: Although there are more vehicles on the road these days, our roads may not necessarily be built to handle the increased load. That means traffic signals have the additional challenge of addressing outdated infrastructure, like two-lane roads in busy cities or counties.
  • Multiple modes of transportation: Finally, traffic signals are not just for cars. Depending on where you live, you’ve undoubtedly seen signals that are programmed for vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and even trains—all in one intersection. The more modes of transportation that need to be addressed, the more complex the signal controller needs to be.

Standardizing signals

Since the 1990s, the United States government and state governments have been trying to standardize traffic signals. The rapid development of computerized technology has made this easier, but getting every town, city and county in the nation up to speed is a big challenge.

Today, both the communication to traffic signal controllers and the computing platforms in controllers are standardized. This cuts down on confusion, makes them easier to regulate and encourages vendors to create interchangeable tools and signals.

The future of traffic signals

Our transportation and infrastructure problems aren’t going away anytime soon. Today, there are significant challenges to the future of traffic signal controllers. The main issue is funding—it takes a considerable amount of money to bring old systems up to speed. Infrastructure like traffic signal controllers often takes a backseat to police and fire departments, among other agencies. The result is that many municipalities are under-equipped and may not meet current federal and state standards.

Signal Equipment Company South is a traffic control part manufacturer committed to providing high-quality traffic signal controllers to our customers. Call us today to learn more about our selection, services and educational opportunities.