How to report mixed signals of traffic lights


January 13, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SO WHAT DO you do when you encounter a malfunctioning traffic signal?

If it's on county roads, such as the one at South Entrance Road and Little Patuxent Parkway, you can contact Howard County Department of Public Works' customer service office, at 410-313-3440, and let officials know about the concern.

On Jan. 6, after becoming aware of a malfunctioning left-turn signal from South Entrance Road turning onto Little Patuxent Parkway, I contacted the Department of Public Works.

Two days later, I heard from Mark DeLuca, chief of the Howard County Department of Public Works Traffic Engineering Division.

"We checked the signal today and found one of the electrical components malfunctioning. It was replaced and the signal now functions properly," he said.

If the malfunctioning signal you encounter is on a state road in Howard County, then contact the State Highway Administration's Dayton Maintenance Facility at 410-531-5533.

If the malfunctioning signal is on a state-maintained road in Carroll County, call the Westminster Maintenance Facility, 410-848-6565; or in Frederick County, call the Frederick Maintenance Facility, 301-624-8251.

But how do you know whether the road is county or state? In general, there's a simple rule: Numbered highways, such as U.S. 1, Interstate 95 and Route 99 are maintained by SHA. The county maintains most other roads.

And speaking of state-maintained roads, Douglas Dribben e-mailed last week to ask, "Have you got any inside skinny on the final opening of the new alignment on Route 99 just west of U.S. 29?"

Dribben noted that the paving and work have been completed for almost a month.

"We were tantalized last month with signs at each end of the roadwork telling us a new traffic pattern was coming on Dec 15, 17, 19, 20-something, then January 5. After each date came and went with no changes, they finally turned the signs off. To date, still no change, although they let beautiful weather go by several times. We are still trying to figure when this much-needed change will be put into effect."

According to Adrienne Cousler, a SHA spokeswoman, the road is in its final configuration and has been since last month. "The only item that remains to be completed are the temporary pavement markings on the road," she said.

She also said there were some coordination issues with the contractor and the other jobs they are working on.

"Now, with the colder temperatures we're experiencing, it is not possible to lay the permanent markings. However, the contractor is committed to get out and to lay the permanent markings as soon as we have some decent weather," she said.

Recently, there have been several news stories about police impersonators pulling drivers over. Here's the information you need to know, just in case you get pulled over.

How do you know you're being pulled over by a real police officer? According to Sgt. Lisa Myers, a legitimate officer, in uniform or plainclothes, will be wearing a badge.

"The officer will always have a badge clearly displayed," she said. "You can also ask to see identification." The identification cards will clearly display the police department's logo.

If your license is not readily available to give to the officer, you need to politely inform the officer you need to get out of the vehicle. "You need to make it clear why you need to exit your vehicle," Myers said. "For example, you need to say, `I need to get my wallet out of the trunk.'"

After you are pulled over, the officer will "run your information" and issue a ticket or warning, she said. "You will receive some form of documentation of the traffic stop," she said.

If at any point you begin doubting that a plainclothes officer is a real police officer, you can request a uniformed officer or an officer in a marked car. "Be sure to tell the officer you intend to comply with the request for your information once the other officer arrives," Myers advised.

If you're being stopped at night by an officer in an unmarked car and have concerns about the officer, Myers advises acknowledging the officer by waving. Then proceed to a well-lighted parking lot in a heavily visited shopping center. "Again, if the driver is unsure that the plainclothes officer is a real officer, he or she may request to have a uniformed officer respond to the scene," she said.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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