Minute is a long time to sit in traffic lights if you drive only 20 sec to next lights

Posted on: August 19, 2011 by: Vesa Metsätähti in:

Motorists in Line at the Safety Lane at an Auto Emission Inspection Station in Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio...09/1975

You how people are always scolded on how they dislike waiting in traffic lights? Well, it is not they, but we. And you notice this usually while driving a car but can experience anxiety also when moving on foot.

“Irrational, only a minute away from your day”, they say (they who are not currently behind the steering wheel). Well, perhaps not only a minute, but still after speeding through couple of lights you notice how you linger on tasks wasting time without worries.

People are not bad, not that irrational — it is just that rationality is very limited by context

Comparing extra 5 minutes delay that the traffic lights caused to the extra 10 minutes you spent on Facebook makes anger for red light to look dumb indeed.

But the delay should be compared to the context: you might spend 1/3 of travel time actually driving have 2/3 spent on delays caused by red lights.

Lesson: do not judge people irrational or dumb when doing design or customer service

If you think someone’s reaction in a situation stems from the person being irrational or just plain evil you should think again. Yes, you can encounter someone incredibly dumb, but changes are that you did not understand the context and emotions it triggered.

And if you do not understand the context and motives your service or design will be impaired.


Extra: UK town shuts down traffic lights with surprising results

In this video you can see how shutting traffic lights eased traffic in an UK town. I don’t think that it would work this well everywhere, but I’m surprised how little in this economy and climate talk wasted time and Co2 emissions caused on standing in lights are exploited as arguments.


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