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Stupid Usability #50

Blinded by the Lights

Written By: High Monkey
Posted: 5/8/2014

From the mind of Joel Baglien, VP of Business Growth at High Monkey:

I drive to work on the same road almost every day. One intersection in particular is so over-engineered with traffic signal lights that it is almost distracting and from a usability point of view - very stupid. I get it that some people drive distracted and can't be bothered to pay attention to traffic signals. FULL DISCLOSURE - I ride a motorcycle so I see a lot of stupid actions by my 4-wheel brethren.

Here's a picture of the offending intersection:

I am confronted with SIX traffic signal lights. Count 'em. Yes, six lights for a two lane road with a right turn lane. There are another three lights for traffic coming from the right and two more lights for traffic coming from the left for a total of ELEVEN traffic signals at this one intersection. Because this is a split road, there are another eleven traffic lights for the two lanes going the other direction about 50 yards to the left of this intersection.

According to my extensive research (okay, I did a Google search on "how much does a traffic light cost") - a single traffic light costs about $8,000 and installation costs between $15,000 to $100,000 depending on the state, location of the signal, and other regulations. So just being conservative with my numbers here - the total cost for twenty two traffic lights for these two intersections is somewhere in the neighborhood of $880,000 - and is probably much higher. If these two intersections had eight instead of eleven lights each, the cost would have been $240,000 less (six fewer signal lights at $40,000 each for cost and installation).

Besides the excessive cost, where this blinding number of lights contributes to stupid usability is based on a single question, "Why?" I'd like to see research that shows more traffic lights make us better drivers or that proves more people don't step on the gas for more yellow lights - or six yellow lights in this case. Good usability doesn't insult the intelligence of the people who are the "users" - whether it's a website, a coffee maker, a power tool, or a county road. The overkill of traffic lights is insulting to all users of this county road - the only message I see at this intersection is "We assume you are a bad driver and need to be blinded by lights so you can drive safely".

Since this is a county road, I suppose I should add a snarky thank you to both the State and the County for using my taxpayer dollars stupidly. That $240,000 could have gone to a much better use.

Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 5/8/2014 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments