Make way for the Greenwave: calls for reduction of traffic lights on UK roads

  • Four in five (80%) traffic lights ‘should be ripped out’ over concerns they are detrimental to road safety, the economy and the environment.
  • New research reveals that the average Brit spends 48 and a half hours a year stationary at traffic lights – that’s over two days a year spent ‘seeing red’.
  • FOI data obtained by shows that there are more than 33,800 traffic light systems on British roads.
  • Number of traffic lights on British roads has increased 23% since 2013 – with London having the most sets in operation (6,297).
  • Nearly a third (29%) of drivers have driven through a red light – with 32% of those saying they did so deliberately.

With parents preparing for the daily gridlock of the school commute come the start of September, are calling for the re-think on traffic lights in order to reduce congestion. This is supported by an Institute of Economic Affairs report which puts the cost of delays caused by traffic controls at £16 billion a year. It also states that four in five (80%) traffic lights in the UK could be removed to boost the economy and road safety.

New research by reveals that the average Brit spends 48.5 hours a year stationary at traffic lights – that’s more than two days out of 365 spent ‘seeing red’. Research from the leading price comparison website has also found that of British motorists who drive on a daily basis, the average time spent waiting at red lights is eight minutes – accounting for nearly a fifth (18%) of the average time spent in a car on a daily basis. And while this might seem a small amount, over a year it adds up. And some British drivers (15%) say they even spend 11-15 minutes waiting at red lights on a daily basis.

And it seems that Brits are having to contend with more sets of traffic lights than ever before. In fact, new FOI data obtained by shows that British drivers face more than 33,800 traffic light systems on roads across the country – a 23% increase since 20133. And motorists in London might see their drive punctuated by red lights more than anywhere else – as they have the most traffic light systems in place (6,297).

The frustration of traffic lights can lead to many Brits taking action into their own hands – with nearly three in 10 people (29%) saying they have driven through a red light and nearly a third of these (32%) doing so deliberately. Reasons for driving through a red light vary – with a third (33%) saying they were running late and a similar number claiming they didn’t see the light turn red (32%). A fifth (20%) say they deliberately drove through a red light because they were angry at the light – for turning red.

Worryingly, of those Brits who have deliberately driven through a red light, one in 15 (7%) say they have had an accident – with one in 20 (5%) saying they collided with a pedestrian. And if it’s not drivers themselves causing accidents, other motorists running red lights are causing accidents. Nearly one in 5 (18%) said that another car driving through a red light almost crashed into them. 

 Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at, says:

“Red lights are a frustration for many drivers on the road but they are a necessity to keep traffic moving in a timely and orderly fashion. On some days, it can seem these lights are against you and it can feel like the wait is longer than normal. 

“With motorists waiting an average of eight minutes a day at traffic lights, this can add up over a year. But the risk of driving through a red light can outweigh the benefits. Rushing through a red light can cause problems for drivers and pedestrians alike. And getting caught, and incurring points, can cause problems for your insurance.

“Should drivers be caught and issued with points for driving through a red light, or any driving misdemeanour, they need to inform their insurer. If they don’t, their policy could be deemed void or they may have to back pay their policy.”

Luckily James Corden didn’t have any issues with red lights. See his new advert where he catches every green light…


Notes to Editors

Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll research on behalf of This was an online poll of 2,000 UK motorists that drive regularly. The research was conducted between 4th March and 8th March 2016. issued an FOI request to every council who was responsible for the traffic light system in their local area. Of these, 124 responded. 

1. British drivers spend, on average, eight minutes a day waiting at red lights. Eight minutes multiplied by seven equals 56 minutes a week. 56 minutes multiplied by 52 weeks of the year equals 2,912 minutes. This equates to 48 hours and 32 minutes a year waiting at traffic lights. 

2. According to research, British drivers spend an average of 44 minutes driving on a daily basis and eight minutes waiting at traffic lights. Eight minutes equates to 18% of 44.

3. In 2013, there were 27,549 traffic light systems in operation across the UK. Currently, there are 33,851 in operation. A 23% increase.