Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tell Us, O Light, What's Up

I often drive fairly late at night and, going down one main drag across the river, face a long line of green traffic lights. They are “demand” lights and, as cross traffic is zilch after midnight, I just sail along, green after green. It’s a great feeling.

Sometimes I’ll see a yellow ahead, then red; knowing the timing, I won’t slow down because I know I’ll get the green by the time I get there.

There might be a red and white flashing light behind me, an ambulance rushing to the hospital across the bridge. Or a red and blue, a cop about to settle an argument that the people involved couldn’t handle for themselves. Maybe a combination of red/blue, red/white and yellow: Traffic accident with injuries requiring a two truck.

Years ago, in Our Fair City, the traffic lights in the affected area used to go 4-way flashing yellow when emergency vehicles were on the move. In one way, it was good; you were alerted to their presence. On the other hand, you also had drivers not knowing who was going to enter the intersection next. In a way, it was good those ambulances, cops and fire trucks were on the road, because you might need them right where you were.

Our traffic lights also went “through yellow” on both sides, whether going from red or going from green. There was a tendency for people to gun it to get through before the light turned red, as well as for people to anticipate the yet-to-happen green light when they had been stopped. Lots of work for body shops in those days.


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