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  #1  
Old 06-04-2002, 06:16 PM
SouprChckn SouprChckn is offline
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Highway onramp traffic lights: Who obeys them?

If you don't exactly get what I mean, there are these small traffic lights on various onramps on the highways near me. They only have green and red lights and they are tripped by sensors on the road some distance before the merge point on the onramp. They're to help regulate traffic so you don't have huge backups by everyone trying to merge at the same time.

I bring this up because I find that I almost never actually obey these things. In high traffic situations, a lot of space can open up or close up in the short distance between the sensors and the light. It makes more sense to figure out the merge at the merge point rather than at the light. I almost never have problems making a safe merge when I do it. Also, because of how the signal is activated, the light will sometimes flick from red to green to red in under a second leaving no time to hit the gas anyway.

What does everyone else do in this situation? Also, can we get tickets for going through these things when they're red? (I always assumed they were suggestions more than they were actual traffic lights).
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  #2  
Old 06-04-2002, 06:37 PM
Gala Matrix Fire Gala Matrix Fire is offline
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When I lived in the big city, I obeyed them. I guess I don't think I'm as important as you do.
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  #3  
Old 06-04-2002, 06:41 PM
Jeeves Jeeves is offline
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Hmmph. Well, I don't know if you can get ticketed for skipping them, but I do always obey them. I don't take the freeways much here (Los Angeles) becuase I live close enough to work to take surface streets, but when I do and they are on, the freeway is busy enough that it spaceing things out makes sense.
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  #4  
Old 06-04-2002, 06:57 PM
rjung rjung is offline
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I obey 'em -- you never know when there's a cop in the bushes.

As for the "quick flick from green to red," I believe the idea is that you can simply start going once it's green for you. The return-to-red is for the next person behind you.
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  #5  
Old 06-04-2002, 07:42 PM
BobT BobT is offline
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They are always clearly marked "One Car per Green" or "Three Cars per Green".

The lights are definitely not "advice". They are real traffic signals and you can run them at your own peril of getting a ticket.
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  #6  
Old 06-04-2002, 08:51 PM
DarrenS DarrenS is offline
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I remember hearing somewhere (perhaps on Discovery?) that these lights are there to present "clumping". This is where a whole bunch of vehicles enters the freeway at the same time (due to traffic signal synchronization on surface streets) and ends up forming a "clump" on the freeway, causing traffic slowdowns.

And yes, impatient type A that I am, I still obey them.
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  #7  
Old 06-05-2002, 01:07 AM
ricepad ricepad is offline
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I dunno about other states, but in California, you run the risk of a mighty big fine (over $200, IIRC) for running one of these. If you're in the habit of running the same light around the same time of day - say, on your way to work every morning - your fellow commuters have been known to call the CHP to report your license plate as they watch you blow through the light. If the CHP gets enough complaints about your car, they'll do one of two things: Send you a letter telling you that the law applies to you, too; or station a motor officer to watch the light and wait for you to blow it one more time.
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  #8  
Old 06-05-2002, 11:15 AM
pendgwen pendgwen is offline
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Here in Seattle I've never seen anyone ignore these lights. If you did, you'd severely piss off everyone who's waiting in line like you're supposed to. Considering the number of people who have cell phones I wouldn't try it even if I were inclined to jump the line. Here the lights have an added wrinkle - if the on-ramp is big enough to have a carpool lane, the light applies only to the single occupancy lane and not the carpool lane.
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  #9  
Old 06-05-2002, 11:28 AM
Gozu Tashoya Gozu Tashoya is offline
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I always obeyed 'em in L.A. even when they took a hideously long time to change to green. I mean, really, how much good are you going to do with the 10 seconds or so that running the light ostensibly saves you?
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  #10  
Old 06-05-2002, 11:29 AM
Purd Werfect Purd Werfect is offline
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I've never seen anyone go through one here in Northern CA. Our freeways are a serious and ugly business.
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  #11  
Old 06-05-2002, 11:56 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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If people had just used their noggins in the first place and entered our freeways with a sensible amount of space between them and any car in front, these effing contraptions wouldn't have been necessary. I hate the damn things as I was always taught to build up to freeway speed before entering and sticking a freaking stoplight on the ramp complicates that effort.

Yes, if nobody's in front of me and the damn thing's red I will blow through it and merge safely with the traffic flow, braking to give exiting traffic the right of way.

There's no telling how much extra gas is wasted across the US daily as cars come to an additional stop and then are forced to quickly accelerate to freeway speed over a much shorter distance. Preventing accidents is worth that cost but using just a modicum of common sense would have accomplished the same thing.

Because a few people didn't have the decency to respect the space of the car in front, we've got one more instance where we're told what we can or can't do. I hate 'em... can you tell?
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  #12  
Old 06-05-2002, 04:00 PM
blowero blowero is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by SouprChckn
If you don't exactly get what I mean, there are these small traffic lights on various onramps on the highways near me. They only have green and red lights and they are tripped by sensors on the road some distance before the merge point on the onramp. They're to help regulate traffic so you don't have huge backups by everyone trying to merge at the same time.

I bring this up because I find that I almost never actually obey these things. In high traffic situations, a lot of space can open up or close up in the short distance between the sensors and the light. It makes more sense to figure out the merge at the merge point rather than at the light. I almost never have problems making a safe merge when I do it.
I don't know where you live, but here in The Los Angeles, I don't think the purpose of the lights is to "time" your merge - I think the point is just to reduce the rate of cars getting on the freeway. In other words, not so much a safety issue as simply an attempt to control the flow of traffic. They mainly seem to be activated when the traffic on the freeway is at a crawl, so you wouldn't want to be going 65 when you hit that line of cars going 5 mph anyway.
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Also, because of how the signal is activated, the light will sometimes flick from red to green to red in under a second leaving no time to hit the gas anyway.
??? You're supposed to stop at the red light, then proceed when it turns green. It's designed to let one car through every few seconds. The green is your signal to proceed - it doesn't need to STAY green.
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What does everyone else do in this situation? Also, can we get tickets for going through these things when they're red? (I always assumed they were suggestions more than they were actual traffic lights).
Yes, you can get a ticket. I have heard that it doesn't count as a moving violation, though, because the lights only regulate traffic, but I can't substantiate this. In any case, you'd still have to pay the fine. I always stop if the light is red - hardly seems worth risking a ticket to gain only a few seconds.

What's really fun are the ones where it's a 2-lane onramp with a light in each lane. When it turns green, it's like a drag race.
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  #13  
Old 06-05-2002, 09:46 PM
brad_d brad_d is offline
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I obey them. They're most definitely not suggestions out here.

I'm in the greater Los Angeles area, where as people have pointed out they're all over the place. I agree with blowero as to the reason that they're there - I've read somewhere myself that "clumping" of incoming traffic is what they're intended to prevent. My own personal experience is that they work, too.

Many (but by no means all) on-ramps here have two lanes: one for "carpools" (generally, multiple-occupant vehicles), and one for others. There's typically a sign reading "Carpool lane does not stop," giving that line free blow-through of the signal light.

But, it seems, this is simply too tempting for the more self-important solo drivers out there. It's hardly rare for me to observe someone driving alone up the carpool lane so that they may skip the queue in the other lane.

Just the other day I was driving on the 605 freeway and I observed a CHP motorcycle officer sitting on the right shoulder, looking off to his right over the slope. I wondered what he was doing until I passed his location and realized that he was looking down at a light-controlled carpool/other onramp. I can only suppose that he was staking it out, waiting for someone driving alone to breeze through the carpool line. I doubt he had to wait long.
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Also, because of how the signal is activated, the light will sometimes flick from red to green to red in under a second leaving no time to hit the gas anyway.
These things don't operate like normal traffic lights. There is usually a sign saying "One car per lane each green," or something similar (occasionally it's two cars). When it flashes green, the front car in the line can go - the next guy has to wait. If you're not off the line when it flashes back to red, you can still go if you were in front. No, the second guy can't go if he tailgates the first dude and gets by the signal before it turns red again.

In keeping with this forum's title: My Humble Opinion of those who feel these lights need not apply to them is rather low.

Full disclosure: I accidentally blew through one a few months ago. It was on the ramp I usually take to work, at an hour when the signal was usually not activated. It was also partially obscured by a bush, but I would have had time to react had I been paying attention rather than assuming it wouldn't be on. I flashed by it, caught a bit of red in my peripheral vision, and thought, "Hey, was that thing on? Oooh...crap." There were no flashing red & blue lights in my near future, so I decided luck was with me. I opted not to drive to the nearest CHP depot and turn myself in.
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  #14  
Old 06-06-2002, 01:37 AM
Critical1 Critical1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by lieu
Because a few people didn't have the decency to respect the space of the car in front, we've got one more instance where we're told what we can or can't do. I hate 'em... can you tell?

you have it backwards, at least from my experience.

the biggest single bitch I have with traffic is people complete and total inability to MERGE at proper speeds. I cant tell you the number of times I am stuck behind some moron who happened to be first at the light and now is trying to merge with 60+mph traffic at 35-45mph with 10 cars piled up behind them on the onramp. grrrrrr I sense a traffic rant in my future.
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  #15  
Old 06-06-2002, 02:13 AM
BobT BobT is offline
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I would be very surprised if a violation of a freeway meter light didn't result in a moving violation. After all, you're in your car about to enter a freeway. It's not like you're jaywalking. You're toying with automobiles going 65 mph.

If anyone wishes to find out, someone here should get ticketed for a violation of this law and test it out in court.

We'll all chip in for the fine, won't we?
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  #16  
Old 06-06-2002, 03:18 AM
blowero blowero is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by BobT
If anyone wishes to find out, someone here should get ticketed for a violation of this law and test it out in court.

We'll all chip in for the fine, won't we?
Did you just volunteer, BobT?
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  #17  
Old 06-06-2002, 12:58 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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who obeys them? not me! blow right thru them. you need to be up to speed to merge onto a freeway.

before you all get hot'n'bothered about this, don't worry- i'm only in major cities where these stupid devices lurk about once every 5-6 years, so the odds of me inconvieniencing you are pretty damn slim!

(and, I don't really care a flyer what you think, anyway! )

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  #18  
Old 06-06-2002, 01:11 PM
monster monster is offline
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We have them here in Denver and I obey them.
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  #19  
Old 06-06-2002, 01:32 PM
BobT BobT is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by blowero


Did you just volunteer, BobT?
Not me. But I usually carpool to work anyway and get to go past everybody!

[pause to feel morally superior]

Ahh, that's better.


[/pause to feel morally superior]
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  #20  
Old 06-06-2002, 03:32 PM
pendgwen pendgwen is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by gatopescado
who obeys them? not me! blow right thru them. you need to be up to speed to merge onto a freeway.
A couple of people have mentioned this point. Funny. As previously mentioned I always obey the lights and I have no trouble getting up to speed before merging. Nor does getting up to speed require anything akin to a drag racing start. How long are the on-ramps where you live?
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  #21  
Old 06-06-2002, 04:27 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Steven Wright (the comic) says his driveway is one.
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  #22  
Old 06-06-2002, 06:14 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by pendgwen


A couple of people have mentioned this point. Funny. As previously mentioned I always obey the lights and I have no trouble getting up to speed before merging. Nor does getting up to speed require anything akin to a drag racing start. How long are the on-ramps where you live?
well, like i said, i only encounter these things about ever 5-6 years. i would say the nearest one is over 500 miles away.

i also run the stop sign on my street that dumps onto the highway. it is a perfectly straight section of road from horizon to horizon, and you can see traffic for literally miles and miles and i see no reason under the sun to lose precious momentum just because a red piece of hexogonal aluminum is hanging on a pole.
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  #23  
Old 06-06-2002, 06:48 PM
SouprChckn SouprChckn is offline
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I'd just like to point out that there are no carpool lanes where I live so it's all one lane onramps. I'm not saying its right but I've never had to deal with this one particular aspect.
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  #24  
Old 06-06-2002, 08:06 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Another Los Angeleno checking in. You'd better obey the meters here! I see motorcycle cops (and the occasional car cop) lurking very frequently where they can monitor who does and doesn't obey the signals. And people who run the lights do get pulled over and their drivers ticketed.
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  #25  
Old 06-07-2002, 12:58 AM
Wikkit Wikkit is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by gatopescado
i also run the stop sign on my street that dumps onto the highway. it is a perfectly straight section of road from horizon to horizon, and you can see traffic for literally miles and miles and i see no reason under the sun to lose precious momentum just because a red piece of hexogonal aluminum is hanging on a pole.
Of course, I wouldn't do anything about a red bit of hexagonal aluminum either.

However, if you do that for red bits of aluminum in the shape of an octagon, that makes you an asshole.

I'm an asshole too; I run a specific stop sign every once in a while because it's in a stupid place and not visible until you get to the intersection. I don't drive that way often, so I forget about it.
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  #26  
Old 06-07-2002, 02:03 AM
amarinth amarinth is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by pendgwen


A couple of people have mentioned this point. Funny. As previously mentioned I always obey the lights and I have no trouble getting up to speed before merging. Nor does getting up to speed require anything akin to a drag racing start. How long are the on-ramps where you live?
Not very long - definitely not long enough for my car to get anywhere close to appropriate speed before merging...

Not that it matters, because at the ones that I tend to get stuck at there's still clumping. So you drive, you stop in the middle of the onramp to wait for the light to change, and then you slow down a lot (if not stop entirely) at the end of the onramp to wait for your chance to merge into the clump of cars trying to merge. They don't seem to have solved any problems at all, and are incredibly annoying.

Still, I've never seen anyone just drive through one (I've seen people pretend to be a carpool, but the people in the appropriate lane stop to wait for the light to change), nor have I done that myself.
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  #27  
Old 06-07-2002, 02:13 AM
VDarlin VDarlin is offline
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Most of our onramps are three lanes, one carpool, and two regular, and all three(yes, even the carpool lane, damn bastages!) of them have these lights. Depending on where you are, it will designate one or two cars per green. I have never blown through one, nor have I ever seen anybody do so. I think I'd be more worried about the other people waiting getting pissed at me, than being caught by a cop.

~V
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  #28  
Old 06-07-2002, 06:36 PM
MovieMogul MovieMogul is offline
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It never occurred to me that anyone could be so impatient as to run one of those lights. Maybe they exist, but I've never seen one that (a) didn't have a long stretch of offramp to properly accelerate on, or (b) wasn't being used at a time when freeway traffic was considerably less than the speed limit anyway. Still, it's the law and I find few things more infuriating than those drivers out there who consider themselves so smart/"well-informed"/special that they don't have to obey the rules the rest of us do.
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  #29  
Old 06-08-2002, 02:18 PM
lawoot lawoot is offline
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Seems to me that if you are at one of these things at rush hour, and you decide to 'blow through' the red, you are missing, tops, ONE CYCLE of the light. You just saved ten to twenty seconds, and gave yourself an extra 25 feet (one car length, plus buffer space) to get up to highway speed (which, at rush hour is often, what, 50mph?) Wow, what a difference!

(mind you, I'm assuming that you are in a line to get on the highway, right?)
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