Portugal’s New Traffic System Turns Lights Red If You’re Speeding

Along many of Portugal’s roads are signs marked “velocidade controlada” — speed control. A short distance down the road from the sign will be a traffic signal, sometimes in the middle of nowhere. At the sign, a radar gun measures your speed and if you’re over the limit the light will turn red as you approach the traffic signal. The signs and traffic signals are actually an alternative to the speed bump we’re used to in America. It’s definitely working, as now when people see the signs, they begin to slow down in anticipation of the traffic signal. The signs and traffic signals mostly appear on faster roads, rather than through residential areas. The social dynamic of the system is interesting. What officials have discovered is that people seem to be more concerned about the red lights than they are the speed limit signs. Knowing they’re speeding doesn’t seem to bother them, but knowing they’ll get stopped at a red light because of it makes them slow down. Some say it’s the element of public shame they’re worried about. If you trigger the light, not only are you stopped but everybody around you has to stop as well. If you’re a sociopath, that won’t bother you, but for most there’s a deep shame about it. So far, the system in Portugal seems to be working.