Published by the German Pedestrians' Association (FUSS e.V.)

This text (3 pages) as RTF-file in German and English

I. The present study of the German Pedestrians' Association FUSS e.V. is a literature research on the regulation 'Right Turn on Red with Green Arrow' - in the following abbreviated as GAR. The main findings/ results are:

1. The green arrow in the German Democratic Republic (GDR): Not proven

In the GDR, from 1978 to 1990, right-turning manoeuvres were allowed also on red, if a green arrow plate was attached next to the red traffic light signal. Contrary to public opinion, however, GAR was not a success, but led to numerous problems concerning traffic safety. For that reason, already in the year of unification (1990), the first all-German minister of transport, Günter Krause, who was a GDR citizen himself, declined "for reasons of traffic safety" to keep up GAR and demanded:

"The primary target must, therefore, remain to remove the attached sign with the green arrow quickly and thoroughly."

2. The first report of the BASt (Federal Highway Research Institute), 1992

The first scientific green-arrow investigation in united Germany, which was carried out by the Federal Highway Research Institute (Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen BASt) in 1991 - here referred to as BASt-report 1 (published in 1992) - is faulty in two essential points:

a) The assertions made there on the effects on traffic safety:

  • " no additional negative effects on traffic safety to be noticeable"
  • "reservations about safety could not be confirmed"
  • "an essential reduction in traffic safety for pedestrians and vehicles at right-turn-on red with green arrow is not provable"

show a lack of scientific approach and cannot be maintained: In the investigations carried out in Berlin and Dresden a number of conflicts and even accidents were recorded of which the green arrow was the cause. Also, in a survey, 67% of the police stations, 52% (plus 6% with restrictions) of the roads departments and 36% (plus 26% with restrictions) of the towns in administrative districts of their own kind conceded dangers resulting from GAR.

b) A re-calculation of the braking deceleration rates of green arrow users carried out by FUSS e.V. proves that unrealistic values had been estimated.

The authors of BASt-report 1 themselves denoted their study "a first/preliminary assessment". Before incorporation of GAR into the Road Traffic Regulations they thought it necessary to carry out an extensive experiment, in particular aiming to "statistically support the hitherto made statements on safety and local capacity increase" as well as "to base the working out of application criteria on sound observations and data".

3. No scientifically ascertained application criteria in the administrative provisions of March 1, 1994

In the period between 1990 and 1994, GAR was applied in the former GDR due to two special orders by the Ministry of Transport (issued on 11 December 1990 and on 20 December 1991). In the period between 1991 and 1993, i.e. at the time when first steps were taken to make GAR a part of the Road Traffic Regulations -valid in all Germany - no extensive experiment as described above was carried out. Thus the application criteria considered necessary by the authors of BASt report 1 were not worked out.

When GAR came into force there were no scientifically ascertained application criteria. In the administrative provisions accompanying the Road Traffic Regulations, which came into force with these on 1 March, 1994, 8 application criteria are formulated (7 'exclusion criteria' and 1 'criterion for recommendation', i.e. that the green arrow must not be implemented resp. should not be implemented). They orient towards the application criteria contained in the Road Traffic Regulations of the German Democratic Republic that were in force there from 1 January, 1978 until its end. These, however, as is stated in BASt report 1, had not been scientifically ascertained:

"The incorporation of the green arrow plate [into the Road Traffic Regulations of the GDR on 1 January, 1978 - the author] was the result of a political decision. As GAR was not based upon the results of scientific analyses or evaluations of traffic accidents there are and there have been hardly any investigations on the advantages and the disadvantages of GAR. Therefore, there are no scientifically ascertained, detailed application criteria available."

Besides, the application criteria formulated in the GDR Road Traffic Regulations only partially reflect the knowledge about the dangers of GAR that existed in the GDR.

4. Incorporation of GAR into the Road Traffic Regulations: A political decision

The incorporation of GAR into the Road Traffic Regulations in the year 1994 was a political decision; too; herewith the assertion made in BASt report 1 that "an essential reduction in traffic safety for pedestrians and vehicles on right turn on red with green arrow is not provable" was quoted to substantiate the incorporation. The incorporation was accompanied by strong protests by many, and eminent, members of the German road traffic research community which remained unsuccessful, however.

5. Implementation of green arrows in West and East Germany, 1994 - 2002

Until 1999, in the "western federal states, GAR - with only few exceptions - was not applied: The BASt's final report on 4 investigations, which had been carried out in the period between 1993 and 1998 (here referred to as BASt report 2) lists only about 300 green arrow signs in west German towns and cities, compared with some 2,500 in east German cities. The explanation given is that the western federal states are "largely sceptical" about GAR introduced in 1994 and that they "make hardly any use or no use at all" of this regulation.

The critical attitude towards the green arrow changed in the years after 1999: By the middle of 2002 there were about 5,000 green arrows in Germany, with a higher proportion in the western federal states than in 1999. All the same, in 2002, still 40% of west-German cities did not use GAR at all in comparison with 62% in 1999. In some cities, e.g. in Wiesbaden, Bielefeld and Krefeld, all the existing green arrows had even been removed for traffic safety reasons or other reasons (conflicts between green arrow users and pedestrians and cyclists as well as because of noise).

6. The second report of the BASt (1999) and the application criteria laid down by the Green Arrow Task Force (GATF)

This increase in green arrows after 1999 appears somewhat paradoxical for BASt report 2, which was published at the end of 1999, pleaded for tightened application criteria: As a result of the conflicts and even accidents observed and recorded in the investigations on traffic safety the so-called "Green Arrow Task Force" (GATF) of the BASt, which evaluated the investigations, extended the existing application criteria (of the advisory provisions as valid from 1 March, 1994 onwards) to 18 (12 of which being exclusion criteria and 6 of which being criteria for consideration). In addition the GATF also formulated 3 'rules of conduct' and 7 'recommendations for implementation', which were far more extensive and stricter than those contained in the Road Traffic Regulations and accompanying administrative provisions of 1994.

The GATF concluded that GAR "can continue to be implemented" respectively that "its implementation is tenable" only if the application criteria, behavioural rules and recommendations for implantation laid down by the GATF "are strictly complied with". The GATF, in addition, formulated two more requirements for GAR to be continued to be applied: its local suitability must be thoroughly examined and intensive public awareness campaigns are recommended to enforce the rules.

7. Utter disregard of GATF application criteria in the revises administrative provisions of 1 February, 2001

With effect from 1 February, 2001, the administrative provisions accompanying the Road Traffic Regulations were revised: herewith the topical "state of the art" concerning the conflict and accident potentials of GAR as it had been defined in the GATF's final report remained largely unconsidered/was largely disregarded, except for 1 exclusion criterion and 1 criterion for consideration none of the application criteria formulated by the GATF were incorporated into the revised administrative provisions. Moreover, additional conflict and accident criteria which had been described in other specialist literature were altogether neglected in the revised administrative provisions. The consequence of this are avoidable conflicts and accidents because local traffic authorities usually only proceed according to the administrative provisions when implementing new green arrows - and, incidentally, they are obliged to stick to them only. Except for few cases only, the authorities are generally not informed about the topical state of research on GAR.

Contrary to explicit recommendations of the GATF, the existing administrative provisions allow GAR to be implemented in the following 8 situations:

  • On roads outside built-up areas;
  • if it is necessary, as a result of the geometry of the intersection, for trucks and buses turning to the right to pass through the traffic area designated for traffic coming from the right at the intersection exit (narrow intersections);
  • if U-turns are regularly carried out by traffic with the right-of-way coming from the right;
  • in situations where it can be expected that a large number of traffic lanes and traffic relationships will lead to drivers turning right becoming confused, even on otherwise clearly visible intersections;
  • in combination with pedestrian crossings used frequently by persons with mobility handicaps;
  • if long vehicles (trucks, buses) turn right frequently as this might otherwise lead to the pedestrian crossing becoming blocked;
  • if regular service buses coming from the opposite direction and turning left could be impeded by vehicles turning right on red with the green arrow;
  • if the bicycle crossing is located some metres away from the edge of the road.

Moreover - also contrary to GATF recommendations - the present administrative provisions allow for GAR to be implemented even if the obligation to stop is utterly neglected by GAR users.

8. Conflict and accident potentials of the green arrow

In the investigations on traffic safety and traffic accidents connected with GAR, which were carried out within the framework of BASt report 2, a conflict rate of 0.77 was determined. This means that at the investigated intersections about every 130th green arrow user had a conflict with other traffic participants. 99 out of 1.403 accidents (7%) at green arrow intersections occurred on red with green arrow, i.e. on average every three years one accident was registered by the police.

9. Additional accidents related to GAR

The GATF found that accidents occurring at GAR are neither more frequent nor more serious than accidents occurring on normal right turns. The task force emphasizes, however, that this fact does not mean that additional accidents related to the green arrow could not occur.

10. Massive disregard of the obligation to stop with almost no consequences

The obligation to stop is "disregarded by masses". Most conflicts at GAR intersections are caused by this. The task force's demand:
"If - in spite of intensive publicity work, proper observation of the green arrow regulations by drivers - particularly the obligation to stop - is not achieved to a sufficient degree and there is a continued risk for other traffic participants at an intersection, the green arrow regulation must be removed from it" is only rarely complied with.

II. Further contents of the present study:

  • The conflict and accident potentials of GAR for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists as described in the literature evaluated - in total these amount to over 30 - are described and evaluated.
  • All in all seven alternative improvement measures for right-turning traffic are described which might enhance right-turning capacity at intersections, some of which without having the unpleasant consequences of GAR.
  • Critical evaluation of arguments put forward by green arrow advocates
  • Further problems of GAR as well as flaws in the existing regulations are described in 9 aspects.