My kids have been listening to a really dumb song called “Dumb Ways to Die.” The artist sounds a bit like Sheryl Crow, and she sings about all these stupid things humans can do in order to die. Based on a few experiences in the past six months, she could add driving near the Zoo Interchange to the dumb ways to die, and it’s actually a more ironic situation than Alanis Morissette’s song on the topic. The automatic red lights for emergency vehicles will kill someone soon, and I was nearly the first yesterday. I assume the problem is with the sensitivity of equipment or stupidity of humans, but it’s a real (and probably very expensive) problem that needs to be addressed A YEAR AGO. Here’s my story.
Keep in mind that I work from home, so I only leave my residence when I need to, which means the fact that this was a problem two days in a row at the same intersection indicates the DOT is once again ignoring glaring issues with the Zoo Interchange redesign. But first, let’s look at the first time this happened, about six months ago, while going to church at rush hour. We were at 92nd and Watertown Plank. The light was red, with a little flashing white light, for ten minutes. Why? A sheriff had someone pulled over on Watertown Plank Road about a half mile away. So, our light on 92nd stayed red. So, everyone in line started getting frustrated, and started honking, and then started going against the red light. Since the sheriff was doodling around with a customer, we could see the light was going to remain red, and the entire Milwaukee Regional Medical Center was letting employees out. What were our options? We tried to be safe, two at a time, crossing six lanes of traffic against a red light, but it was not safe at all. In fact, the system made it terribly dangerous. Maybe that light is fixed now, but the Bluemound one is still a problem as of 5-11-2016.
Two days ago, on 5-9-2016, I was returning from my kids’ school, and I was getting off on Bluemound from I-41 South. Seeing the green light, I was charging ahead to not wait at a red, not knowing that people on Bluemound had been waiting for an emergency vehicle red light for who knows how long. When I got to the intersection, two cars darted out in front of me, and I had to slam on my brakes to avoid t-boning one or both. They were frustrated, but they also were going against the red, and I had no way of knowing how long they had been waiting, so I almost killed someone.
Today, the same thing happened, but this time I was on Bluemound, and I could see the sheriff with a client down on 41 North. We all waited a few minutes, and then we all started running red lights again.
This is unacceptable. The system is either flawed or maladjusted. While I am certain it took a lot of taxpayer money to install a “safer” system, it’s not working. In fact, it’s much more dangerous than the alternative.
As someone who knows little about how the red light system works, my best suggestion (and probably the cheapest) is to set it to flashing red when an emergency vehicle is present. At least everyone will be stopping. I get it that the emergency vehicles need right-of-way, and a green light for them is the safest, but having lights default to red for ten minutes on major thoroughfares is very stupid and very dangerous. Of course, just like many decisions in the area recently, these lights were incorporated without much thought or testing, so this is what we get. The public is the guinea pig, and it will apparently be adjusted once someone is killed. I certainly don’t want to be the person responsible for this occurrence, but I take solace in the fact that it will be WisDOT’s fault and the taxpayers paying for my medical bills. I hope all of our taxpayers agree.