To the editor:
Richard Hutchinson's May 23 letter to the editor ("Especially in light of energy crisis, why no turn on red?") was right on.
I remember when, years ago, the federal government required states to allow right turns on red. At the time they also allowed the states to determine which intersections were candidates for allowing these turns.
Here in the People's Democratic Republic of Massachusetts, our leaders decided that we, the subjects, were not capable of determining if it was safe to turn right on red, so they promptly posted no-turn signs at virtually every intersection in the state. Such a cry was heard throughout the land that the feds stepped in and said, "You can't do that."
After that a few of those signs came down, but to this day many remain that don't need to be there.
The powers that be will tell you that those signs are needed to protect pedestrians, and there may be a small ring of truth to that; but they fail to mention, or refuse to acknowledge, that pedestrians have a "personal responsibility" to look both ways and not step in front of a moving vehicle. Or perhaps the state is just afraid of being sued if a pedestrian should get hurt and some slick lawyer finds a way to blame the state because it allowed right turns on red.
On the subject of lights, I recall, I believe, a newspaper article in this paper years ago about the discussion of additional traffic lights here in Danvers. If memory serves correctly, I believe there was information to the effect that, in addition to installation cost, there was also the ongoing cost of electricity — $600 a month — to power each new set of lights. Maybe changing some of those to flashing in off-hours can save some of that cost.
But, as Mr. Hutchinson mentioned, the big savings comes in fuel. I am sure I have over the last 40 or so years spent countless hours and hundreds of dollars in fuel sitting at unnecessary red lights during off-hours with not another vehicle in sight.
Lights are installed because they are deemed necessary, and they are less expensive than having a cop direct traffic. Of course, if there were a cop there, he would let you go in these off-hours situations. Why these lights are not programmed to do so escapes me. If the traffic studies that deemed these lights necessary were performed in some of these off-hours periods instead of prime time, we would have, at best, flashing reds and yellows, or perhaps just an inexpensive stop or yield sign.
I'll admit to the temptation to run some of these unnecessary stop lights and no-right-turn-on-red signs, but to do so is at the risk of paying for it for the next six years. Respect for the law requires that the law makes sense, but sometimes that's just too much to ask.