A Deepness of Thought
Pat's Blog

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights in Atlanta are the same as everywhere else. We get a lot of thunderstorms here just like the rest of the Southeast and often the traffic lights go out. As I walk by the metal cabinets on the street that house the traffic light controls, I can here the relays clicking. We had these relays on the ship when I was in the navy in the late 1980's. They were an old technology then. They are big, clunky, mechanical things that frequently broke. The springs would wear out. The navy would say that these were used because they were more reliable in harsh environments then microcircuits. This was not true but it got repeated so often everyone believed it. It is inexcusable that, with all the advances in electronics in the past fifty years, we still have traffic lights that regularly break. Traffic lights should also be a whole lot smarter than just simple timers. And the timing of traffic lights in Atlanta has not been adjusted for something like fifty years.

When the traffic lights go out in Atlanta, traffic improves dramatically. The law says that when a light goes out, treat the intersection like a four way stop. But that is not what people do here. We treat it like it was working the way it should. Cars go in one directions for awhile, then some drivers voluntarily stop, then traffic goes in the other direction for awhile. The media will harp on everyone to stop like the law requires but no one listens to them. We all seem to know how to handle the situation. I have never seen an accident due to an out traffic light. I live in the city though and the situation might be different in the suburbs where they have those mega-intersections.

It strikes me as strange that there is no public outcry over the lack of traffic light innovations. I guess everyone is just used to them and does not give them much thought. Or maybe we think that asking the government to innovate will only make the situation worse.

blog index