The question of when and where it's permissible to turn right on a red light occasionally creates confusion for motorists. That's understandable considering the lack of uniformity from one part of the county to another when it comes to instructional signs about right turns on red.
In most cases, we may turn right on a red light after coming to a full stop and yielding the right of way to traffic from the left. The exception is the presence of signs that clearly prohibit right turns on red.
So here's the problem — some intersections have signs posted that are dangerously ineffective because they're somewhat ambiguous, hard to notice or ignored by motorists.
Case in point: the Seminole intersection of Duhme Road and 150th Avenue. Duhme Road ends at this point; southbound traffic can turn right toward the Tom Stuart Causeway, left toward Bay Pines or proceed through the intersection into the Madeira Beach Middle School parking lot.
For years, a large white sign hung over the intersection that read "No Turn on Red" in black letters. Now a small black box hangs next to the traffic signal. It lights to display a white right-turning arrow inside a red circle with a slash across it. Sometimes the arrow is illuminated, other times it's not, and this frustrates motorists who have written in to ask about it. Can we turn right on red at the intersection or not?
We checked in with Ken Jacobs, the county's traffic signal operations manager, who sent a technician out to verify that the sign is working correctly. It is, but Jacobs acknowledged that some clarification might be helpful.
"The FDOT installed what is referred to as a 'blank-out' sign at this intersection for the southbound right turn movement," Jacobs said.
"It's intended to restrict the right-turn movement only when there is a pedestrian crossing on the west leg of the intersection. The signal is set up so that when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street the sign will light up displaying the 'no right on red' message so right-turning vehicles don't violate the crosswalk. When there are no pedestrians, the sign doesn't light up, and the right turns are permitted to proceed on the green light," Jacobs added.
Allowing traffic to flow smoothly through the intersection when no pedestrians are trying to cross the street is great, but the Doc's concern is that the visual of the red-and-white sign is not effectively telling motorists when it's not okay to turn. This is a problem because the majority of the pedestrians using the crosswalk are children heading to and from school.
On a visit to the intersection last week, we activated the crosswalk several times, and in spite of the white neon arrow lighting up with a red slash across it and pedestrians waiting to step off the curb, we observed car after car flying around the corner and turning right on red. Not one stopped.
Tom Stuart Causeway
Safety fence replaced; permanent rail coming
Readers Pat and Bill Armstrong contacted us last week, concerned about what appears to be a potential hazard for pedestrians and bikers on the Tom Stuart Causeway (also known as the Welch Causeway or the Madeira Beach Causeway).
The Armstrongs wrote that they've noticed during their drive from Bay Pines to Madeira Beach that there's an opening in the railing on the north side of the bridge that's big enough to potentially allow a child to slip through and fall into the water. The plastic webbing stretched across the opening appears to be falling apart. We alerted the county Public Works folks, who in turn got in touch with the DOT.
Marian Scorza of the DOT told us that a maintenance contractor replaced the orange fencing material on the north and south sides of the causeway early last week. Scorza said that the safety fence will be monitored until a permanent replacement railing has been installed, which is scheduled for the first quarter of 2009.
Interstate lane closures
Barrier-free driving ends Monday morning
The DOT's moratorium on interstate lane closures around the Tampa Bay area during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend ends Monday morning, so if you've gotten used to the barrier-free driving during the past few days, it's time to downshift. Check out information on travel conditions by dialing 511 or visit 511tampabay.com.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at email@example.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Check out Dr. Delay's Bay News 9 blog at www.baynews9.com/DrDelay.html to read more about commuting issues.