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Turn on headlights, not flashers, when rain falls

Dr. Delay Navigating Pinellas

By LORRIE LYKINS, Times Correspondent
Published August 14, 2007


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Now that the rainy season seems to have finally arrived, it's time for our annual reminder to motorists that headlights must be turned on when driving in the rain. The Doc has noticed lately that more drivers seem to be using their parking lights and, worse, flashers when driving in the rain. I'm not alone in my observation. Reader Randall Glass wrote in this week with his comments:

"The recent heavy rains have brought about the recurring problem of folks driving with their emergency flashers on. This is an illegal practice and very dangerous, as it makes drivers coming up behind these people quickly change lanes to miss hitting what they think is a parked car ahead of them. I have seen this happen twice in the past week; the second time resulted in an accident on I-275 S. I would suggest if people are afraid or uncomfortable driving in heavy rain it's better for them to pull off to the side of the road and THEN put their flashers on."

Several readers have inquired this week about street lights out on Interstate 275 from 54th Avenue N to the Howard Frankland Bridge, making for an ominously dark commute at night.

Carmen Campbell wrote: "I have had to travel to TIA before daybreak and also at night and the lights are all out. During heavy rainstorms last week going across the bridge in the dark was terrible."

We checked in with the Florida Department of Transportation and the reason for the outage is a direct lightning hit that fried the street lighting equipment from 62nd Avenue N to Gandy Boulevard.

"Most of the conduit, conductors, and equipment have been burnt beyond use and parts will have to be ordered to complete the repairs. FDOT is working in cooperation with Progress Energy to get the repairs done in a timely manner," the agency's Kris Carson e-mailed.

Red-light runners are growing bolder

Last week was National Stop on Red Week. It's regrettable that we need such a week designated for public education on this issue, which should be a no-brainer.

I don't know about you, but my driving behavior has changed markedly in recent years in response to the epidemic of red-light running that seems to grow each day. When I'm stopped at a red light, I watch as a handful of vehicles fly through the intersection several seconds after their signal has turned red. Then I wait more than a beat before I hit the gas in case more folks feel the need to run the red.

In my interstate travels in the past six months, I have noticed more blatant red-light runners in Florida than in any of the other half-dozen states I've driven in. Turns out I'm correct on this score.

"Unfortunately, Florida ranks near the top of the list of states for intersection crashes and a third of those are caused by running red lights," said Randall Smith, traffic safety administrator for the DOT. "There are all kinds of excuses, such as 'the light was still yellow' or 'I couldn't stop the car in time.' But there is no excuse for running a red light."

Smith is correct: There is no excuse. Red-light runners seem to be more emboldened than ever. At least once a week I witness cars flying past me and through an intersection up to 10 seconds after I have stopped at a red light.

According to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2005 the last year for which statistics are available there were 96 fatalities and 6,300 injuries in Florida because of people running red lights. So keep your eyes wide open when moving through intersections. You may have the right of way but that doesn't mean you're guaranteed unimpeded passage.

Lorrie Lykins' Dr. Delay column runs regularly in the South Pinellas editions of the Times. Please share your traffic concerns, comments and questions with Dr. Delay via e-mail at docdelay@yahoo.com.

[Last modified August 13, 2007, 20:09:25]


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