those God-awful lights they used to have with lenses situated on them so that you could NOT see what light was on at all
Those traffic lights are called High Visibility Signals.
Regular traffic lights are built like a desk lamp - a regular incandescent bulb in front of a reflector. The high visibility ones are built like a projector. They use a pair of lenses to focus the light coming out of a halogen bulb into a tight beam.
The high visibility signals are more expensive than regular traffic lights, twice as heavy, and require frequent bulb replacement. Their main uses are on curvy roads where through traffic might mistake a turn signal for the through light, and at intersections where a low sun washes out regular traffic lights by shining directly into them and bouncing off their reflectors.
LED traffic lights are basically immune to sun glare, because they don't need a big reflector at the back of their housing. Because of their lower maintenance costs, they've replaced most of the high visibility ones that were being used for that purpose.