When running red lights, remember white lights

Published Oct. 24, 2004|Updated Aug. 28, 2005

Several readers have made note of small white lights attached to some traffic signals around town and inquired about what those lights might do. One reader wondered whether the lights might assist law enforcement somehow. The answer is yes, indeed, they do.

I asked Kristen Carson at the Florida Department of Transportation, and here's what she said: "The white lights are enforcement lights that allow police to catch red light runners from any direction. The white light is wired to the red so that an officer can see the light change downstream in a position to pursue a violator." Red light runners, beware.

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A day in advance of President Bush's visit to a Snell Isle home Friday, workers gave the Snell Isle bridge some fresh paint, street sweepers whisked dirt from Brightwaters Boulevard and other streets, and crews removed piles of branches and storm debris from people's yards. No official word on whether this was coincidence. Near the home the president was visiting, dozens of cardboard "no parking" signs were posted. Initially, they said "Reason: president." Someone apparently thinking better of it _ security? _ later had the word "president" either covered with tape or blacked out on each sign.

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Highway motorists should be alert for missing highway signs: The recent barrage of hurricanes damaged, destroyed or in a few cases, permanently relocated some road signs. According to the state DOT, Pinellas County lost a total of six highway signs during hurricane season. Pinellas signs and those lost or damaged in Hillsborough and along the I-75 corridor should be replaced or repaired "within in a couple of weeks," said Kristen Carson.

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More on manholes: Last week's musings about the plethora of manhole covers on a stretch of 31st Street S brought an instructional and yes, philosophical, response from Dave McDonald, program planner with the Metropolitan Planning Organization. McDonald noted that while the roads expand and contract in response to weather conditions, manholes by nature are less flexible and therefore likely to be raised above the pavement level.

"Manholes are built out of strong brick and mortar starting from a round base of about 4 feet, and coning up to a 2-foot diameter," McDonald said. "This construction design makes them a very strong structure beneath the road and is needed to endure years of pounding weight from traffic. The reason manholes protrude higher than roads sometimes is that the surrounding road material is not as strong, and does not hold up under the traffic pounding like the manhole. In life, everything with age seems to start to droop or sag. It's a fact we can't escape, no matter how we try," said McDonald.

I think I have a new appreciation for manholes.

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Roundabout roundup: I've received several followup e-mails about the roundabout at 30th Avenue and First Street N, which I mentioned in last week's column. Old Northeast resident Eileen O'Sullivan wrote that she recalls at the time of the installation of the roundabout, members of the neighborhood association were concerned about the design because of the playground on the east corner of the intersection and the north/south traffic. O'Sullivan said her understanding at the time was that the roundabout was designed without curbs to allow transit buses to roll right over the roundabout. O'Sullivan added: "Ironically, I believe the bus route has been changed and no longer turns at that location!" According to Cyndi Schmitt of PSTA, bus routes have recently changed and two routes do once again pass through the intersection, the No. 1 route and the No. 38 route, although they don't turn there. But I still don't think the design was intended to encourage drivers of large private vehicles to disregard the right of way and cavalierly roll over the roundabout without slowing.

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Sage words from seasoned motorists: The sage motorist of the week is Kate Nader, who wrote to me about headlights and the lack thereof: "I know that our true rainy season is about over, but perhaps we could use another reminder that when it's raining, headlights must be on. This may be even more important in a couple of weeks as it will start getting dark earlier. I am amazed at the number of people I see driving without lights in the pouring rain." Me too. Thanks, Kate.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring and keep those e-mails coming!

Please share your traffic concerns, comments and questions with Dr. Delay via e-mail at