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Traffic Signals (Traffic Lights)

Traffic Signals (sometimes called ‘traffic lights’ or ‘stop lights’) are electric powered traffic control devices that warn or direct vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycle traffic to a specific action. Traffic signals assign the right-of-way for otherwise conflicting vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle movements at an intersection, or other roadway location. They help provide safe, orderly, and predictable movement of all modes of traffic. The City and County of Denver is responsible for the effective operation of traffic signals within the city. Traffic signal maintenance includes preventive maintenance, emergency response, new construction, improvements and modifications, citizen requests, and the operation of the signal timing and communication systems.

Traffic Signal Safety

Traffic signals are recognized as not a cure for every traffic problem. The installation of a traffic signal will not eliminate congestion or collisions, nor are they an effect means to reduce vehicle speeds. Traffic signals are not always an asset to traffic control.  In some instances total accidents and the severity of accidents, increased after traffic signals are installed.

When can a traffic signal be an asset instead of a liability to safety? In order to answer this, traffic engineers have to ask and answer a series of questions:

  1. Are there so many cars on both streets that signal controls are necessary to clear up the confusion or relieve the congestion?
  2. Is the traffic on the main street so heavy that drivers on the side street will try to cross when it is unsafe?
  3. Are there so many pedestrians trying to cross a busy main street that confusing, congested or hazardous conditions result?
  4. Are there so many school children trying to cross the street at the same time that they need special controls for their protection? If so is a traffic signal the best solution?
  5. Are signals at this location going to help drivers maintain a uniform pace along the route without stopping unnecessarily?
  6. Does the collision history indicate that signal controls will reduce the probability of collisions?
  7. Do two arterials intersect at this location and will a signal help improve the flow of traffic?
  8. Is there a combination of the above conditions which indicates that a signal will be an improvement rather than a detriment?

To help traffic engineers answers these questions, they compare the existing conditions (road classification, volume, pedestrian activity, tec.) against nationally accepted minimum guidelines. These guidelines called "Warrants" are established in the Federal publication of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Through ordinance the City and County of Denver has adopted the use of the MUTCD.

A traffic signal that decreases accidents and improves the flow of traffic is an asset to any community. On the other hand, an un-warranted traffic signal can be a source of danger and annoyance to all who use the intersection; pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers alike. 


Traffic Light

Sometimes referred to as a "Traffic Light" or "Stop Light", these are the red, yellow and green lights that direct traffic at intersections. The correct term for this type of light is "Traffic Signal" or "Illuminated Traffic Signal".

Street Light

Street Lights or Street Lamps come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes, but in general, the term refers to the lights that are on the sidewalks or the sides of streets and shed light on the right-of-way.

See info on street lights or report a problem with a street light