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Timing of traffic signals in St. Petersburg raises familiar question

I hope you can help us figure out why the signals for Ninth Avenue N and Seventh Avenue N at 16th Street can't cycle twice as fast. We have city workers, including the police, sitting there way too long waiting for the light to change, not to mention the rest of us.

Tom Harvey

We asked Bill D. Foster, St. Petersburg's traffic signal coordinator (not to be confused with Mayor Bill Foster) to address this perennial question. As the Doc has discussed before, signals in the city are synchronized so the road experiencing the heaviest traffic is favored. This means the majority of vehicles traveling on the main street will receive a green light while vehicles on the side street have a longer wait.

Foster says that because five traffic signals are in close proximity on that stretch of 16th Street, it makes sense to operate them in a synchronized mode.

"The side street delay is an unavoidable consequence. Our theory is that it is better for a few vehicles to wait on the side street than to make a large number of vehicles traveling on the main street come to a stop," wrote Foster.

Do you know when and where I can find driving classes? I have attended in the past, would like to attend again.

Shirley Carlin

Driver refresher or improvement courses are available from many providers who offer courses for all age groups, so it's worth it to shop around. It's important when choosing a provider and course to be a careful and informed consumer.

First, decide up front if you prefer an online course or a traditional classroom instruction. If you're shopping around for a course online, know that some providers are nonprofit organizations while others are private, for-profit enterprises. Some websites can be misleading in that they are designed in such a way that they appear to be part of the state of Florida's official website, when in fact they are not. You can usually make this determination by scrolling to the very bottom of a website's home page, where you might see a disclaimer in tiny print acknowledging that the organization is not affiliated with the state of Florida or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Costs can vary widely — some programs charge low fees while others may cost hundreds of dollars for online, self-directed instruction. There are a variety of reasons for this, mostly because some sites are geared toward folks who have received traffic tickets and may have been court-ordered to take a driver improvement course.

If you're a senior driver looking to assess or refresh your skills, start your search with a source you are familiar with. AARP, for example, offers classroom instruction in community centers and other locations around Pinellas County for less than $20. Check online at AARP.org or call 1-800-350-7025.

AAA's Mature Operator program offers classroom courses taught by certified instructors. Check out AAA's website or call your local AAA office for information. Some insurers offer reduced premiums to drivers age 55 or older who complete driver improvement courses, so check with your insurer.

Younger drivers can check out basic and advanced safety courses St. Petersburg College offers at SPC campuses, spcollege.edu/ac/driver, or the Suncoast Safety Council's teen driver program at safety.org.

Barricade watch

The planned one-year closure of the LaPlaza Avenue S Bridge in South Pasadena to through-traffic will begin Monday. Traffic will be detoured to the Mango Avenue Bridge during the duration of the Bear Creek Channel improvement project.

Email Dr. Delay at docdelay@gmail.com or follow Dr. Delay on Twitter @AskDrDelay.

Timing of traffic signals in St. Petersburg raises familiar question 11/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 4:31am]
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