Traffic signal preemption (also called traffic signal prioritization) is a type of system that allows the normal operation of traffic lights to be preempted. The most common use of these systems is to manipulate traffic signals in the path of an emergency vehicle, halting conflicting traffic and allowing the emergency vehicle right-of-way, to help reduce response times and enhance traffic safety.〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=Gadget Buzz )〕 Signal preemption can also be used by light-rail and bus rapid transit systems to allow public transportation priority access through intersections, or by railroad systems at crossings to prevent collisions.
Traffic preemption devices are implemented in a variety of ways. They can be installed on road vehicles, integrated with train transportation network management systems, or operated by remote control from a fixed location, such as a fire station, or by a 9-1-1 dispatcher at an emergency call center. Traffic lights must be equipped to receive an activation signal to be controlled by any system intended for use in that area. A traffic signal not equipped to receive a traffic preemption signal will not recognize an activation, and will continue to operate in its normal cycle.
Vehicular devices can be switched on or off as needed, though in the case of emergency vehicles, they are frequently integrated with the vehicle's emergency warning lights. When activated, the traffic preemption device will cause properly equipped traffic lights in the path of the vehicle to cycle immediately, to grant right-of-way in the desired direction, after allowing for normal programmed time delays for signal changes and pedestrian crosswalks to clear.
Traffic signal preemption systems integrated with train transportation networks typically extend their control of traffic from the typical crossarms and warning lights to one or more nearby traffic intersections, to prevent excessive road traffic from approaching the crossing, while also obtaining the right-of-way for road traffic that may be in the way to quickly clear the crossing.
Fixed-location systems can vary widely, but a typical implementation is for a single traffic signal in front of or near a fire station to stop traffic and allow emergency vehicles to exit the station unimpeded. Alternatively, an entire corridor of traffic signals along a street may be operated from a fixed location, such as to allow fire apparatus to quickly respond through a crowded downtown area, or to allow an ambulance faster access when transporting a critical patient to a hospital in an area with dense traffic.
Traffic signal preemption systems sometimes include a method for communicating to the operator of the vehicle that requested the preemption (as well as other drivers) that a traffic signal is under control of a preemption device, by means of a notifier. This device is almost always an additional light located near the traffic signals. It may be a single light bulb visible to all, which flashes or stays on, or there may be a light aimed towards each direction from which traffic approaches the intersection. In the case of multiple notifier lights at a controllable intersection, they will either flash or stay on depending on the local configuration, to communicate to all drivers from which direction a preempting signal is being received. This informs regular drivers which direction may need to be cleared, and informs activating vehicle drivers if they have control of the light (especially important when more than one activating vehicle approaches the same intersection). A typical installation would provide a flashing notifier to indicate that an activating vehicle is approaching from ahead or behind, while a solid notifier would indicate the emergency vehicle is approaching laterally. There are variations of notification methods in use, which may include one or more colored lights in varying configurations.
Events leading up to an activation and notification are not experienced by drivers on a daily basis, and driver education and awareness of these systems can play a role in how effective the systems are in speeding response times. Unusual circumstances can also occur which can confuse operators of vehicles with traffic preemption equipment who lack proper training. For example, on January 2, 2005, a fire engine successfully preempted a traffic light at an intersection which included a light rail train (LRT) crossing in Hillsboro, Oregon, yet the fire engine was hit by an LRT at the crossing. A subsequent inquiry determined that the LRT operator was at fault. The accident occurred in the middle of a network of closely spaced signalized intersections where the signs and signals granted right-of-way to the LRT simultaneously, at ALL intersections. The LRT operator was viewing right-of-way indications from downstream signals and failed to realize that preemption had occurred at the nearest intersection. The fire engine, granted the green light before it arrived at the intersection, proceeded through while the LRT operator, failing to notice the unexpected signal to stop, ran into the fire engine and destroyed it.〔(Accidents Point Up Dangers of Rail Transit )〕
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