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Brits spend more than two days a year at red lights

New research by reveals that the average Brit spends 48 and a half hours a year stationary at traffic lights – that’s more than two days out of 365 spent ‘seeing red’. 

Posted on 15 Apr 2016

  • FOI data obtained by shows that there are more than 33,800 traffic light systems on British roads
  • Number of traffic lights on British roads has increased 23% since 20133 – with London having the most sets in operation (6,297)
  • Nearly a third (29%) of drivers have driven through a red light – with 32% of those saying they did so deliberately
  • More than one in seven (16%) of those who have run a red light have been caught doing so

When a motorist hits one red light, sometimes it can feel like they hit every red light that follows leading to frustrating journeys across cities and towns. And new research by reveals that the average Brit spends 48 and a half hours a year stationary at traffic lights – that’s more than two days out of 365 spent ‘seeing red’.

Research from the leading price comparison website has found that of British motorists who drive on a daily basis, the average time spent waiting at red lights is eight minutes – accounting for nearly a fifth (18%) of the average time spent in a car on a daily basis. And while this might seem a small amount, over a year it adds up. And some British drivers (15%) say they even spend 11-15 minutes waiting at red lights on a daily basis.

And it seems that Brits are having to contend with more sets of traffic lights than ever before. In fact, new FOI data obtained by shows that British drivers face more than 33,800 traffic light systems on roads across the country – a 23% increase since 20133. And motorists in London might see their drive punctuated by red lights more than anywhere else – as they have the most traffic light systems in place (6,297).

City/Towns with the most traffic light systems

City of town council Number of traffic light systems
Transport for London 6297
Blackpool Council 2420
Transport for Greater Manchester 2292
Birmingham City Council 1188
Transport Northern Ireland 1061

The frustration of traffic lights can lead to many Brits taking action into their own hands – with nearly three in 10 people (29%) saying they have driven through a red light and nearly a third of these (32%) doing so deliberately. Reasons for driving through a red light vary – with a third (33%) saying they were running late and a similar number claiming they didn’t see the light turn red (32%). A fifth (20%) say they deliberately drove through a red light because they were angry at the light – for turning red

Worryingly, of those Brits who have deliberately driven through a red light, one in 15 (7%) say they have had an accident – with one in 20 (5%) saying they collided with a pedestrian. And if it’s not drivers themselves causing accidents, other motorists running red lights are causing accidents. Nearly one in 5 (18%) said that another car driving through a red light almost crashed into them. 

And of those drivers who risk red lights, for some, it doesn’t end well. More than one in six (18%) said they have been caught running a red light – with nearly one in 10 (9%) saying a police officer pulled them over after they ran a red light. More than one in 20 (7%) say they were caught by a camera monitoring the red light they drove through.

It’s perhaps easy to see why so many British motorists are happy to risk a red light. Nearly a fifth (19%) of British motorists say they get really frustrated by red lights with a similar number (18%) saying that where they live, traffic lights seem to cause more problems than they solve. More than one in 20 (6%) say that traffic lights make them very angry.

But it’s not all negative as many motorists are happy to obey the rules of the road. More than half (51%) of motorists say they would never run a red light while slightly less (47%) say they think traffic lights are hugely important to keeping traffic moving. 

And when drivers are stopped to allow others on the road to move on, the activities they take part in while ‘seeing red’ can vary. The most common activity while stopped at a red is adjusting the stereo (59%) while more than a third (38%) adjust the air-con. A similar number (36%) choose to chow-down on a snack while one in six (17%) admit to picking their nose – making their wait at the lights highly unsanitary. 

And while you can’t be punished for picking your nose, the police are more than happy to punish those they catch driving through red lights. Of those who have been caught, nearly a third (32%) were given three penalty points and a fifth (20%) were issued with just a fine. A small number (5%) were even arrested for dangerous driving. 

Of those motorists who received penalty points for driving through a red light, nearly a fifth (18%) didn’t inform their insurer.


Matt Lloyd, motoring expert at, says:

“Red lights are a frustration for many drivers on the road but they are a necessity to keep traffic moving in a timely and orderly fashion. On some days, it can seem these lights are against you and it can feel like the wait is longer than normal.

“With motorists waiting an average of eight minutes a day at traffic lights, this can add up over a year. But the risk of driving through a red light can outweigh the benefits. Rushing through a red light can cause problems for drivers and pedestrians alike. And getting caught can cause problems for your insurance.

“Should drivers be caught and issued with points for driving through a red light, or any driving misdemeanour, they need to inform their insurer. If they don’t, their policy could be deemed void or they may have to back pay their policy.”


Notes to Editors

Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll research on behalf of This was an online poll of 2,000 UK motorists that drive regularly. The research was conducted between 4th March and 8th March 2016. issued an FOI request to every council who was responsible for the traffic light system in their local area. Of these, 124 responded.

1. British drivers spend, on average, eight minutes a day waiting at red lights. Eight minutes multiplied by seven equals 56 minutes a week. 56 minutes multiplied by 52 weeks of the year equals 2,912 minutes. This equates to 48 hours and 32 minutes a year waiting at traffic lights.
2. According to research, British drivers spend an average of 44 minutes driving on a daily basis and eight minutes waiting at traffic lights. Eight minutes equates to 18% of 44.
3. In 2013, there were 27,549 traffic light systems in operation across the UK. Currently, there are 33,851 in operation. A 23% increase.

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Launched in 2002, was the UK's first price comparison site for car insurance and is one of the UK’s biggest and most popular price comparison services, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the last couple of years to include small van insurance, motorcycle insurance, car buying and selling, and car finance, as well as a number of tools designed to save drivers money on motoring. is not a supplier, insurance company or broker. It provides an objective and unbiased comparison service. By using cutting-edge technology, it has developed a series of intelligent web-based solutions that evaluate a number of risk factors to help customers with their decision-making, subsequently finding them great deals on a wide-range of insurance products, financial services, utilities and more.’s service is based on the most up-to-date information provided by UK suppliers and industry regulators. is owned by the Admiral Group plc. Admiral listed on the London Stock Exchange in September 2004. is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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