Put the pedal to the metal on traffic signal idea

June 11, 2007|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

The corner of Northern Parkway and Falls Road was named the most dangerous intersection in Maryland in an auto insurance company survey a few years ago, so it's here that I would first test my new idea for slowing down traffic.

The new idea is this: We need to add another light to our traffic signals.

I say this because hardly anyone bothers to slow down for yellow lights anymore.

A yellow light now means, "Floor it, Jack," to most motorists.

It means, "Pedal to the metal."

It means, "No way am I catching that red light with the rest of you losers."

Theoretically, of course, a yellow light is supposed to warn that the light is about to turn red.

Which means motorists are supposed to slow to a stop if they can do so safely.

If they can't, they're supposed to proceed at the same speed and be at least halfway through the intersection when the light turns red.

Ha, ha, ha!

I know, I know. ... That's a good one, isn't it?!

Because very few people do either of those things when they see a yellow light.

OK, maybe a few nuns still follow the rules.

Or bank robbers who are making their getaway and don't want to attract the attention of a police cruiser. But the rest of us see a yellow light and think, "HOLD ON, HON! WE'RE BLASTING THROUGH!"

That's why I propose adding a new light to traffic signals.

See, we need another light that'll flash just before the yellow light flashes.

Because apparently a lot of motorists need two warning lights before the message flashes in their dim little brains, "Hey, Richard Petty, you really do have to stop up ahead."

It doesn't matter what color the new light is, either. Let's not get hung up on that, OK?

Obviously, it can't be red, green or yellow.

Anyway, let's say we make the new traffic light blue, for the sake of argument.

OK, if a motorist approaches a traffic signal and sees a blue light, that would mean, "Hey, maybe you should start slowing down. Think about it, is all we're saying."

In other words, it's more like a friendly suggestion.

If the light turned yellow, it would mean, "Hey, how about slowing down now and stopping at the white line? No, really, you should do this. Seriously."

Then a red light would mean, "OK, pal, enough is enough. You have to stop. Now."

See, the new light on the traffic signal would address the two main issues that make Americans such lousy drivers:

No. 1, American motorists don't like to be told what to do. That's why we routinely ignore speed limit signs and yield signs and go blasting through yellow lights.

And, No. 2, American motorists are always in a hurry. Everyone drives as if they're rushing to the hospital for a kidney transplant.

So, with this new light, we're just giving motorists a double warning and hoping they'll slow down enough to at least consider not screaming through the intersection when they should stop.

At Northern Parkway and Falls Road the other day, the caffeinated masses were having a field day ignoring yellow lights.

Car after car would catch a yellow light 50 feet from the intersection, speed up and blow right through as the light turned red.

Not only was it dangerous, but it was also killing business for the panhandler with the blue baseball cap who was holding a "Homeless" sign on the median strip.

How can anyone slow to give you money when everyone's driving like it's a Dukes of Hazzard chase scene?

I counted 16 cars speeding up for the yellow light before my Tiger Mart coffee had even cooled down enough to sip.

Two of the cars, by the way, were driven by women.

The rest were driven by men. And mostly young men, from what I could tell.

I know that shocks you, since young men in their teens and 20s are usually such careful, by-the-book drivers.

On the other hand, when you look in the rearview mirror and see someone roaring up on you, then blowing past while weaving in and out of traffic without signaling, you can bet it's usually a grandma in her 70s right?

Sure.

Actually, after watching the intersection for an hour, I saw almost as many women as men speeding up for yellow lights.

So maybe it's time to give my idea a shot.

Throw another warning light at these fools as they approach the intersection.

Maybe it'll slow them down a little.

Hey, it's worth a shot.

God knows what we have now isn't working.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.