"One traffic light switches to red, another to green. There is always something to do in Almelo", is one of the most famous quotes of comedian Herman Finkers.

However, the orange light is just as important.

In some countries, including Germany, the orange light (along with the red) is also used to indicate that it is quickly turning green.

Why don't we do that in the Netherlands?

To begin with, we have to examine the function of the orange light.

If the light for one direction turns red, it always takes a while for another conflicting direction to turn green.

This is to ensure that there is enough time to clear an intersection.

This is also referred to as the clearance time.

"Only when all cars have left the intersection can a traffic light turn green again", the ANWB said.

This clearance time is calculated precisely and takes into account the driving speed of vehicles (including cyclists) and pedestrians and the place at the intersection where the different flows would meet (conflict points), says Marco van Burgsteden of CROW, the knowledge platform for infrastructure, public space and traffic and transport.

"If the evacuation time is too short, it can be unsafe. If it is too long, people have the feeling that they are waiting for nothing in front of an empty intersection."

The orange traffic light fulfills a specific function.

The orange traffic light fulfills a specific function.

Photo: ANP

'From red to orange and then green is confusing'

The evacuation time therefore determines when the next direction at an intersection may turn to green, but then many people have to react before they can drive away.

Wouldn't it be more convenient to announce this with an orange light?

Going from red to orange and then to green is confusing in the first place, says Van Burgsteden.

"Suppose you come around the corner and only then see an orange traffic light, is that to stop or to signal that you are almost allowed to drive? In other words: has it just gone from green to orange or from red to orange? ? "

'You don't stand still as long in the Netherlands'

According to Van Burgsteden, this can be overcome by having that orange light burn together with the red light, as in Germany.

Ultimately, it makes no difference to safety and even costs more time and flow capacity.

"For example, it has already been determined in Germany that this announcement orange should not last longer than a second, because it actually takes time off the green season."

You don't have that one second of orange and red, in which you are not allowed to drive away, in the Netherlands.

Here a traffic light immediately changes to green when the German traffic light shows the orange light.

"In fact, you don't stand still for as long here if you have a fast reaction time. If that second was added, you would have to make a completely different calculation for the setting of the traffic lights and the evacuation time. As a result, the time lost over the day is considerable on."

'No advantage for driver with German principle'

According to Van Burgsteden, research also indicates that switching from red to orange and then to green does not lead to a faster reaction time for the driver and thus better traffic flow.

"It is more the case that drivers can leave a traffic light at least as quickly, if not faster, as it immediately changes from red to green."

This also means that there is no advantage to be gained for drivers of vehicles with a start-stop system.

Such systems take a fraction of a second to crank the engine, which in theory may make it more convenient to see an orange light first rather than the green one immediately.

With the rise of electric cars, this problem seems to be temporary.

In addition, experiments are being carried out with smarter traffic lights that can communicate with the car and thus ensure that the green time and the driving speed are adjusted.

"Especially for freight traffic, which needs a lot of fuel to stop and drive away again, this provides environmental benefits", concludes Van Burgsteden.