if i were king...

(almost) every day i pass along the national road 248 running all the way across the country. one thing i noticed is that along 248 and all the other national roads the waiting time at a red light is (or feels?) extremly long. up to two minutes is quite normal. let's be gentle and say it's 90 seconds

one easy way to help the environment would be to turn off the engine while waiting at a crossroads. i usually do that to save gasoline. imagine all the cars waiting at a crossroads with the engines turned off. imagine this be done at all crossroads along that road. in the whole country. image how much gas could be saved. how much smog could be prevented.

if i were king, i would make it a law to turn off engines at crossroads.

are there any technical problems with that? as far as i know, no.
possible counterarguments could be:

-turning on the engine and turning it on again takes too long and slows traffic down even more

to which i say:
we're talking crossroads with long waiting times (60 seconds or more). with a countdown visible at the traffic light, there should be no problem with delays. when the countdown reaches 10, the engine may be started again. when the countdown reaches 5, the engines should be started.

-the countdown you mention, couldn't this be abused for street races and make the streets even more dangerous?

to which i say:
yes, that's true. that's why in addition to the countdown it would be necessary not to display the counting numbers anymore under a certain value.
example: the numbers are counting down from 30. when they reach 10, as mentioned above, engines may be started again.
reaching 5, engines should be started and the countdown turns off. a random duration between 8 und 2 is initiated before the lights go green.
the longest possible time between turning off the countdown (at 5 seconds) and before the lights go green would then be 8 seconds, the shortest possible time 2 seconds.

even without countdown it would is already possible today to do streetraces at traffic lights. in very non-flexible countries such as japan traffic lights operate 24x7 in always the same pattern. no matter if there's traffic or not, they turn green, then the pedestrian's lights start blinking, go red, then the car lane's light start blinking, allowing only traffic turning left before finally turning red. if that's not a predictable countdown i don't know what else would be.

-doesn't turning off and turning the engine back on again weigh heavier on the environment than keeping the engine running during 90 seconds, especially with today's low emissions cars?

to which i say:
this is definitely a good argument. but because the today's cars have low emissions, turning them off and on again should not produce an overhead quantitiy of smog when starting the engine compared to keeping the engine running. it's possible to turn on an engine and drive off within two or three seconds. doubling this duration for the sake of the argument makes it six seconds.
compare this six seconds to keeping the engine running for 20 seconds or even 90 seconds. i think even with 20 seconds red-light phase the benefits of turning off the engine would outweigh keeping the it running.

-what about the costs of re-fitting all the traffic lights?

to which is say:
that's a necessary investment no matter what. but i'm not saying they all need to be done at once. traffic lights need maintenance and during maintenance they could equipped with the number display.
the good thing about the countdown idea is that all the drivers out there don't have re-learn anything. they only have to remember two things:
*turn off the engine at a crossroads
*if you're close to the crossroads you turn on the engine again when the countdown reaches ten, the cars behind can wait until the countdown reaches five or until the numbers disappear.
ultimately, the question of costs is irrelevant. we will loose much more if we don't stop or at least lower carbon dioxine emissions and stop global warming.

ok, who's with me raise your hand. go out, start a petition and make this a reality! together we can do it and save this planet from ourselves!

btw, if i had another wish as king, i would declare an absolute separation between church and state.
quite some harm has been done (and undoubtedly will be done) by religious fanatics. live and let them live i say but don't let them interfere with science, math, archeology and school curriculums.

check out this non sequitur comic which drives my point home nicely:

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