Braking Bad

September 11, 2013 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

This morning I ran a workout on the Boosalis Trail along Highway 2, as I often do. My usual starting point for interval training is 40th and Highway 2. Over the years I have spent a lot of time near that intersection. I’ve never witnessed a crash there, though I have seen the after effects of accidents—as well as a common cause: running “orange” lights.

In fact, it’s very common to see drivers on Highway 2 tempt their fate and that of their fellow motor vehicle operators by hitting the accelerator rather than the brakes when that yellow light turns on. Truckers get much of the blame, but they’re far from the only sinners. They’re just easier to notice because they’re so much more massive than your friendly neighborhood Yaris.

What causes the orange light running on Highway 2? Many of the reasons are the same as elsewhere: drivers think it won’t hurt anything; drivers are in a hurry; drivers aren’t paying attention; drivers misjudge the length of the yellow light; and so on. But some factors are more unique to Highway 2. Frustration can play a big role, for example. Certain intersections along Highway 2 are prone to backing up, not just because of heavy traffic but also because of horrible light cycle timings. Drivers “get back” at the signals by ignoring them. Another factor is that Highway 2 is, well, a highway. Drivers cruising along at 45 miles per hour on a divided highway feel a sense of entitlement about their right to keep on keeping on. Last, Highway 2 has fewer intersections and access points (driveways and such) than most other streets in town. That can give drivers a sense of momentum that they don’t want to interrupt.

Prepare to Stop When Flashing

Given all of those potential causes and the obvious potential consequences, one wonders why more hasn’t been done to help prevent disaster. There’s one very simple—and I think inexpensive—solution that I would like to see implemented. A series of “Prepare to Stop When Flashing” signs along Highway 2 would work wonders. They’re already in use east of 56th Street and there’s one at Van Dorn, but in between they’ve been left out. I would like to know why. I’m sure cost plays a role, but I suspect there’s something else going on as well. Surely cost alone isn’t responsible for keeping the signs away for this long.

There’s another alternative solution, though one that few of us would enjoy. LPD could step up enforcement and go on a ticketing barrage. Me, I prefer a little preventative medicine.

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The Comments

Fletch September 11, 2013 at 2:45pm

Funny you should mention that intersection. A few years ago my wife was sitting at a red light, waiting to go north on 40th Street, when she became a sitting duck and part of a 5-vehicle crash due to someone running the light. Her car was totaled, but thankfully by some miracle she was not injured. We used to go through that intersection multiple times a day for a trip to day care. I always worried about that intersection.

Due to where we live, work, and play, we are daily (often multiple times) drivers on the highway or crossing the highway. I’ve seen too many close calls to mention.

I think your ideas have merit. I think “prepare to stop when flashing” signs are a no-brainer. I also think that a ticketing barrage from time to time would help be a reminder. The tickets alone could add new members to the police force. I would raise the fines for semi trucks ticketed there, and I would ticket the hell out of them along the entire highway until they slow down.

Another thing I would do with Highway 2, and even though it’s a route I use often, is drop the speed limit to 45 coming in from the SE before cars get to Tractor Supply, Menards, Walmart, etc. Allowing that speed limit to remain at 55 as it is, all the way near the Old Cheney intersection, makes it harder for drivers to be wanting to slow down by the time they get to 56th and Highway 2.

The other thing I would do, and this may sound crazy, would be to put a delay on green lights and green arrows, so they don’t appear at the split second that the opposite lights turn red. A couple seconds of all red lights in all directions would allow for those yellow-running semi trucks to run through.

My advice for any driver crossing the highway is if you are the first car when the lights turn green, you can’t just step on the gas and go. You *HAVE* to look, particularly for large trucks.

I am amazed more people are not killed on that highway annually.

Marc September 11, 2013 at 3:14pm

One aspect that I can only imagine hurts is the VERY short turning arrows on 40th west-bound onto HWY 2. They are SOOO short that you really have to go right away or you only get 1 or 2 cars out before it’s gone. Maybe the South beltway will pull some of those large trucks off that stretch of hwy, but I don’t think it fixes all the other issues.

meatball September 11, 2013 at 10:00pm

Good ideas and suggestions. I think special enforcement for speed and stoplight violations could make a big difference, especially with the trucks. Word spreads quickly among the trucking community.

I’m certainly guilty of running some orange lights. What seems to help me do better and stop at more yellows is to remind myself how ticked off I get when when I’ve got two young kids in car seats behind me, and I see a semi plow through a red light. I figure leading by example can’t hurt.

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