The saga of the 10 minute traffic light!

By: Martin R Meyer

How many times have you sat at a red traffic light for 5 or 10 minutes patiently waiting for the light to change to green?

Have you been intimidated by the honking horn behind you at the red light?

Have you noticed that when a car comes to the intersection from the other direction, the light changes almost immediately?

Would you believe that there is a pattern here?

Well, rest assured, there really is a pattern.

Have you noticed the wide white band of paint across the lane at stop signs and traffic lights? It’s called a stop line. It is put there for your safety and the safety of the people crossing in front of you. It’s the indicator telling you where to stop before proceeding from a stop sign and where you should stop and not cross at a red traffic light.

The exact position is selected to position your vehicle where it will not be hit by a truck turning left onto the road you are waiting on.

Well, keeping you out of the way is not the only reason the line was put there. Very many low traffic cross street intersections have what I called “Traffic Controlled Signals". The main road, where most of the traffic is flowing, will have a green light as long as there is no traffic trying to enter or cross the main flow of traffic.

If there is traffic to cross or enter the main flow, the main flow is temporarily stopped by a red light and the crossing traffic can proceed in relative safety. When the crossing traffic has moved on, the main flow of traffic is given the green light for as long as there is no additional crossing traffic.

How does this happen?

Easy! It’s technology at its finest unless you drive a motorcycle. Next time you visit an intersection with a traffic light, look at the road as you approach the stop line. Very often you will see a rectangular pattern outlined in what looks like tar. The pattern on the road is about 6 feet wide and from 10 to 30 feet long that ends at or near the stop line. The stuff on the road is not tar. It’s actually an epoxy material that seals a cut put in the road made with a diamond saw.

The cut was made to insert a few loops of wire that are connected to some electronics in the traffic light control box found near the intersection. The electronics make the loop into a metal detector. It tells the traffic controller when a car in the loop.

The problem comes when a driver approaching a traffic controlled intersection does not pull up to the stop line (where the detector loop is located). Their vehicle is not detected and the traffic controller does exactly what it was designed to do…keep the main traffic route flowing.

Stopping 10 or 20 feet short of the stop line does, however, does give you a much better view of the red traffic light and plenty of time to wonder how long it will take to change to green. The answer to how long it will take to change has two answers.

1.The light will stay red until you pull up into the detector loop or

2.Someone coming from the other direction is detected in the loop across the intersection.

The really good systems have two loops on each side of the road. One for through and right turn lane, and one for left turn lane. Often, if the only vehicle detected is in one of the left turn lanes, only the left turn light will turn green and then back to red and you still don’t get a green light.

The answer is just too simple. When you are the first vehicle at a traffic controlled intersection, pull up to the stop line so that your vehicle is detected! Unless you are driving a motorcycle that is made mostly on non-steel partsFind Article, the light will change for you in a few seconds and you will be on your way.

Travel and Leisure
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Travel and Leisure