Longing for more green while driving to work? And by that I mean, Benjamin Moore Traffic-Light Green. Because hey, you’re running a bit late and all these other folks apparently have more time than you. In fact, some of them even stop and buy gas. Others have time to wait in line for an Iced, Grande soy venti, 4-pump, no-foam, half-caff, cinnamon upside-down, double sleeve no cup, coffee (by the way, according to this guy I know, it is amazing).
Well, there actually is a way to see nothing but green. It requires a very simple (albeit somewhat expensive) device installed on your vehicle and a similar device (albeit even more somewhat expensive) installed on the traffic signal. Oh, one more thing, your vehicle must be either a police car, a fire truck, an ambulance, a school bus, Amazon Prime, or a Jimmy John’s delivery vehicle (ha – just kidding about Amazon Prime).
I hesitate to provide the exact technical name for this device because unfortunately, they happen to be available online (eBay to be exact, $450, and rhymes with “schmoptiphone”). But like many things online, it is very illegal to install this device on your very vehicle. In fact, abuse is rigorously observed. Whenever a green light is triggered by one of these devices, the “event” is registered. Each event is reviewed to ensure it was indeed an actual legal emergency (or sandwich delivery).
It works like this: when an emergency vehicle approaches a traffic signal equipped with such a device, the traffic signal “phasing” accelerates in order to display (and hold) the green light in the direction of the oncoming emergency vehicle. This sequence can be triggered up to a 1/4 mile away and allows the approaching emergency vehicle to drive through the intersection while facing a green light. Without such equipment, emergency vehicles must slow down to ensure that other vehicles see and hear them before cautiously proceeding through each intersection. Because of this technology, accidents involving emergency vehicles diminish significantly and they arrive at their destination sooner and safer.
Also, as listed above, school busses have access to this technology. Even though considered a “non-emergency” vehicle, the sensors have the ability to assign priorities to different vehicles. For example, should a fire truck and a school bus simultaneously approach a traffic signal from different directions, the fire truck gets the green light. And because such simultaneous conflicts are rare, the school bus generally get a green light making it easier to maintain arrival and departure times — all with minimal impact to other vehicles at the intersection. And as you can imagine, this is particularly helpful along routes with multiple traffic signals.
One more thing, when a traffic signal is “pre-empted” by an approaching vehicle, you will notice flashing white lights next to the traffic signal confirming a nearby emergency vehicle is approaching and taking priority control of the signal. So, if the white light is flashing and the signal is green, and no emergency vehicles (yet) with view, you can generally clear the intersection. But stay alert, an emergency vehicle is in the area. And if the signal is red, stay put. Take a sip of your amazing Iced, Grande soy venti, 4-pump, no-foam, half-caff, cinnamon upside-down, double sleeve no cup, coffee…
Chet Skwarcan, Traffic Engineer and Futurist, can be reached at Chet@TrafficEngineering.com.