Although they are properly referred to as “traffic signals,” most drivers call them “stop lights.”
That’s because they seem to turn red just in time to make us stop — or, in some cases, cause us to see if we can get through the yellow warning light before it turns red.
It helps when there is a nearby walk light that counts down the seconds that remain before the green light turns yellow.
Another thought that comes to mind (you should pardon the expression) in light of recent developments is what auto mechanics will tell you: Few things are harder to diagnose than an intermittent electrical problem.
This type of problem has manifested itself in the traffic signal at the corner of Baltimore and Mechanic streets in Cumberland.
Periodically, for no reason anyone can find, it switches from its normal function to flash mode.
Each time this happens, it is reported to Cumberland Police, who reset the light. It then functions properly until the next time — which, like the “check engine” light on your car’s dashboard, can happen when you least expect it.
This particular traffic signal has been a thorn in the city’s side since its control system was damaged in a motor vehicle accident almost three years ago.
A new system was installed, but the process took several months. During this time, traffic coming from each direction had to stop, and cars took turns driving through the intersection, one at a time in each lane.
Some people said this arrangement actually worked better, and there seemed to be less of a backup in traffic waiting to proceed.
The current problem has defied all efforts of city workers to diagnose and repair it. So a service call has been placed to the system’s manufacturer — Econolite.
That was done several weeks ago, but City Administrator Jeff Rhodes said the company’s representative apparently has a large service area and won’t be able to make it here until March 22 — this coming Friday. Hopefully, this will result in the problem being fixed.
Until then, motorists and pedestrians alike should be aware of the situation and follow the rules that apply to traffic signals in flash mode:
A flashing yellow light means “slow down and proceed with caution.” A flashing red light means “stop and yield the right of way.”
This shouldn’t have to be explained to motorists, but from judging the way we’ve seen some of them react to the signal at Baltimore and Mechanic streets when it’s in flashing mode, it probably can’t hurt.