Tuesday, February 6, 2007


On the news last night in MyTown was part two of a hard hitting multi-part report on the length of time traffic signals in the city are yellow (although MyTown has the highest teenage STD rate and highest teen pregnancy rate in the country and we are about to run out of water for good, we smile and talk about traffic signals on the evening news). According to a complex national standard, the traffic signal should stay yellow for one second for every ten miles per hour of posted speed limit.

For example, if the speed limit was 40 mph, the light should be yellow for? 4 seconds! Good.
(Not that any of this matters by the way because people around here only take traffic signals seriously if they've been red for a few seconds. And then only start moving again once it's been through green and has turned yellow again (or when they can hear me screaming unintelligably from my car behind them).

But anyway, the news report. The reporter was talking about an intersection near my house where the posted speed limit is fifty-five miles per hour. "With a speed limit of fifty-five miles per hour," she said "the light should remain yellow for five-point-five seconds." So far so good. Then the clincher! She said "We timed the yellow light and found that it is only yellow for four-point-four seconds. NEARLY A FULL SECOND less than the national standard." Oh to have Tivo.

Then! Then! (yes it gets better!) She interviewed some city guy in charge of traffic signals. She said "At such and such intersection the posted speed limit is thirty-five miles per hour, so the signal should stay yellow for three-point-five seconds." He CORRECTED HER "Well, we would want that light to stay yellow for three and a half seconds."

Oh my HELL no wonder it takes half an hour to drive eight miles in this town.

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