Flashing red lights, stopped cars ... hey, what gives?


It can be confusing out there on the road, getting bombarded with traffic lights and signs and cones and those dudes with the flags and the smoke pouring out of that old VW bug in front of you and the weaving big rig to your right, which makes you think of that video on YouTube where a rig jacknifed and smashed into things.

And then, along comes this crosswalk with these flashing lights you’ve never seen before, and then one day, wham, your SUV gets swallowed by a pothole.

Don’t fret, road minions. We’ll fix this.

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Michelle sent this question: “Lights have been installed on east Sahara (Avenue) between Eastern (Avenue) and Maryland (Parkway) along with a crosswalk. The light turns solid red, and then begins flashing red. Question: Is this flashing red light like those at four way intersections — meaning one may proceed with caution if the way forward is clear? It appears vehicles are treating the flashing red light like the solid one, and waiting to proceed until the light is completely extinguished.”

I was all, ‘Huh,’ because who doesn’t understand flashing red lights? You stop, you look around, you go when it’s clear.

So I drove out there and, you know what? I was confused. This ain’t no normal flashing red light.

The lights above the new crosswalk are arranged into a triangle, with two on top and one on the bottom. There is no green light. The bottom light turns yellow when someone is about to cross, then the top two turn red. The pedestrian crosses.

Easy.

But then — get this — the two lights on top flash red back and forth. They alternate, like the lights at a railroad crossing.

Bizarre. All the cars when I was there the other day were stopped. They stopped when it turned red, and they stayed stopped while it was flashing. No one was sure what to do.

Diana Paul, a city of Las Vegas spokeswoman, says the contraption is called a HAWK signal. And she says Michelle is right, you are allowed to stop, look around, and go if it’s clear while the light is flashing.

Curious about this newfangled light, I checked the Google machine. It seems these lights are catching on. They’re based on systems used in Europe, where people actually walk around for some reason.

HAWK stands for high-intensity activated crosswalk. I get HIAC when I check that acronym, but what do I know? I don’t work for the government.

Anyway, the research says these things work. They get people to stop. Given all the pedestrian deaths around here, that can’t be a bad thing.

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Cindy sent this one: “Could you please check on the time allowed for the left turn lane signal, going north on Jones to turn left (west) on Oakey (Boulevard). As soon as the light turns green, it immediately turns yellow. I’ve seen traffic backed up so far that many drivers pull out of the turn lane and proceed across Oakey to make a U-turn and come back southbound, so they can make a right turn to go west on Oakey. Not always the safest move.”

I went to check this out, and Cindy is right. It doesn’t even last long enough for two cars to get through the green light.

Paul said the city is checking into it. It’s possible, she said, that the loop detectors were damaged during the road construction.

In the meantime, they will up the green arrow time to 15 or 20 seconds to give drivers time to get through without doing any dangerous U-turns.

So thanks, Cindy. You may have saved someone’s life.

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Lastly, we have some more good news. Rex sent in a question that’s way too long for me to include here, so I’ll summarize.

He says there’s an enormous pothole on Dean Martin Parkway just north of Blue Diamond Road. He said Nevada Department of Transportation trucks caused this hole, which sits just along the edge of the pavement.

Damon Hodge, an NDOT spokesman, said that’s not so. The hole was caused by erosion.

What caused the hole doesn’t matter at this point, anyway. The previous Road Warrior sent the question over to Dan Kulin, a spokesman for Clark County. Kulin got the question on a Wednesday afternoon, and he says the pothole was fixed by lunchtime the next day.

He even sent a picture as proof.

So there you have it.

Let’s go fix some more stuff.

Got a transportation question, comment or gripe? Ship it off to roadwarrior @reviewjournal.com. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter: @RJroadwarrior.