“This is just the beginning of more to come,” Smith told The Informer. “We will have these light at all of the major intersections in and around Monrovia.”
Hundreds of engrossed passersby, motorbike riders and commercial vehicles' drivers stopped briefly to watch the scene and resorted to round of applauses when they saw technology, though not new in the country's history, working right before them.
Minutes just after Smith turned the lights on at St. Joseph Catholic Junction, where many motor accidents and related deaths have occurred over the years, drivers and pedestrians began yielding to the sign as police officers instructed them what to do.
The first set was installed last year on the Bushrod Island which has greatly helped to control traffic better than the police did before the lights were installed. “Thanks for our country,” a 68-year-old Komulu, who claimed to be a normal time (pre war) driver, stated. “The way I see this light I think about normal days when we were we,” the old man stated, pulling laughter from other onlookers.
Traffic lights (also known as traffic signals, traffic lamps, signal lights) are signaling devices positioned at or near road intersections, pedestrian crossing and other locations to control competing flows of traffic.
Traffic lights were first installed in 1868 in London, the United Kingdom, now used in almost every city of the world. Traffic lights alternate the right of way accorded to road users by displaying lights of a standard color (red, yellow/amber, and green) following a universal color code (and a precise sequence to enable comprehension by those who are color blind).
In the typical sequence of color phases, the green light allows traffic to proceed in the direction denoted, if it is safe to do so; the orange/amber light denoting prepare to stop short of the intersection, if it is safe to do so; and the red signal prohibits any traffic from proceeding.
There were several of them in the city at critical intersections and junctions before the war including the Paynesville general market (now named Red-light) as a result of the multiple traffic lights that were there.
Many of today's drivers who had never seen the doors of professional driving school or experienced these traffic lights will take some time to get use to the system after some violations or public education.
“We will engage you, the media, the radio stations and the police to help educate our public about yielding to the traffic lights,” Smith said when asked about public awareness and education.
Smith said the traffic lights will help to regulate the traffic and makes movements better and smooth. “It is like a stationary police that will help to regulate and direct the traffic,” he said but some drivers said it would waste their time. “This will just waste our time here; we are hustlers and don't need this other thing here,” pointed out Opee, driver of a commercial taxi. He and a motorcyclist Peter “Rambo” Kollieson are of the view that Liberia is not ready for such modernity. “This is not the time for this kind of street lights them; we looking for something to eat them they bringing embarrassment for us,” Kollieson lambasted.
Meanwhile other drivers said they were happy to see in Liberia what they see in other countries. “I saw it in Ghana, even right here in Ivory Coast, and now I am happy to see it here,” said Emmanuel, a private car owner.
The traffic lights were donated to Liberia by the People's Republic of China as part of bilateral assistance in the rebuilding process of the West African country. “It is a gift from the Chinese people to the Liberian people and we are happy to help Liberia because we like you,” said an excited official of Wonder New Energy Industry Liberia Inc, a Chinese firm that installed the lights.
Smith said the installation of traffic lights falls under the many projects the ministry with respect to traffic and road signs. “We will be doing some road side sign and road markings and this is just part of the process,” he said. “There is an increase in the number of cars in the traffic so we need to step-up our regulatory power and the traffic lights will actually help us.”
The Chinese government donated 19 of the lights, and Smith said they would be installed within the next one month in Monrovia and some of the counties' capitals. Redlight, Bardnersville Junction, New Georgia Junction, Freeport, all along the Somalia Drive, will get traffic lights, the deputy infrastructure minister told this paper.
Traffic lights were in several parts of Monrovia including several parts of Sinkor and Broad Streets as well as the Freeport before the outbreak of the civil war on Christmas Eve 1989.