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Horizontal vs. Vertical Traffic Lights


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Quick question.. would someone mind enlightening me as to why some areas of the country hang their traffic lights horizontal and some vertical?







Is it purly aesthetics? Or is there a purpose for this? :unsure:

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Pennsylvania Traffic Signals

This is not a standard PennDOT signal but i cringe everytime i pass through here. Cant this be improved???? This is along US 13 northbound in Bristol.


New Jersey Traffic Signals

New Jersey likes to be different by mounting traffic signals in the most random places ever! You will find horizontal traffic signals in the cities. Some cities, get to install their own traffic signals like this one in Camden along County Route 543.


Typical NJ standard traffic signal but usually, a green horizonal overhead is posted here since this is a state highway. I cannot name this road until "somebody" guesses this south jersey location over at Name this Jersey location.


District Of Columbia Traffic Signals

All of them are this standard as far as i know. This is US 1 Southbound getting close to 14th street


Virginia Traffic Signals

Some states like Virginia allow cities (independant cities really) to install their own traffic signals as well.

Bedford along VA 43


South Boston along US 501 Southbound

North Carolina Traffic Signals


NCDOT new trend of traffic signals, this one is on US 15/501 northbound leaving Carthage


Flint Hill Church Road(?) i believe, heading into Trinity, Randolph County. It is unusual to see mast arm signals in NC outside of the city limits.


The cities have their own DOT's therefore, you will see traffic signals slightly different than the ones statewide. This is along South Boulveard going north in Charlotte


South Carolina Traffic Signals

SCDOT is beginning to use mast arm signals inside the city limits, especially in areas where they want to beautify the area. THis is on US 301 Northbound in Manning.


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Michigan has vertically mounted traffic signals. Here in Grand Rapids, the traffic lights are ethier suspended on cables that cross the innersection diagonally or in area's like our DT they are mounted to decrative masts. New er and upgraded roads way out in 'exurbs feature traffic signals mounted to gray and very utiliarian masts.

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my guess for the horizontal lights is that they're for places where part of the light fixture would be blocked from view. i've seen these in CT at one end of an underpass so that it's visible to cars that are on the other side, but still allowing for a certain amount of clearance below the light.

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My guess is that horizontal lights would survive better in periods of high winds, like a hurricane. (less exposed surface to the wind)

Vertical ones just look nicer, in my opinion. I don't think I've ever seen a horizontal stop light in Minnesota, although they are common in Omaha, NE.

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My guess is that horizontal lights would survive better in periods of high winds, like a hurricane. (less exposed surface to the wind)

it's the same surface area. the ones that are common around here are literally just the regular vertical once rotated 90 degrees.

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^ Yeah, but if they're suspended there from a metal pole they're not as....um......can't think of what to say...........strong as if they're turned sideways since you have the full metal arm to act as a foundation. Man that was really hard to write. :(

i was thinking of the ones hanging from a wire. but if attached to a metal pole, i don't think you have to worry about them much at all regardless of orientation.

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Pure speculation to follow, but I'd guess that someone has done a study on it...

It would seem that vertical orientation has a greater impact on the thought process of the viewer. When red is at the top, we know that stopping is important. Likewise any additional turning arrows can be placed beside the vertical bank of lights already in an obvious place. For right turn lights, they will be on the right.

Is this why most people think the vertical ones look nicer?

btw All the traffic lights in Australia are vertical.

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