Think of the last time you were in a hurry. I mean really in a hurry. You have to drive somewhere and want to do it legally obeying speed limits and laws. Okay, now imagine that task at 6:00pm during rush hour in Provo, Utah. Are you going to get to your destination on time? I’d like to assume that answer is obvious but will answer it through some of the following ideas (just in case you’re confused). ;) Driving in Provo has to be one of the worst places to drive because of the light system, and even worse, with a few changes in that system, it could all be avoided. Each day the lights are not fixed, drivers get worse and worse, as though they are being conditioned to drive the way they do. Provo city needs to take responsibility for its terrible light system and take some steps to solve it.
I grew up in Mesa, Arizona. I lived there for 18 years until moving to Provo for school. Streets are pretty similar to the ones here in Utah: grid-like and nice and straight. Granted, we don’t have a whole college population crammed into a tiny city, but we do have almost a half a million people living there. Arizona also happens to be one of the safest places to drive, and according to Forbes, one of the best states to drive. (www.forbes.com). In fact, Provo, UT doesn't even make the top 40 safest places to drive in the 50 states. So, why did I instantly gain a hatred for driving in Provo? Why does anyone gain a hatred for driving in Utah? What is it about the lights that makes it so frustrating to drive here in Provo as opposed to Mesa?
First off, I think that in a way, Provo drivers are conditioned to drive the way they do through the light system. Now hear me out on this. When I say conditioned I mean being “trained” in a sense. When something happens, you react in someway, to hopefully receive the reward at the end. For example, the light turns yellow, you speed up to catch the light and run it, your reward is getting through the light and getting to your destination on time. To break it down even more, here’s another example. The green turning arrow appears in most intersections after the main light turns red, as opposed to being before it. This allows people going straight through the light to fly through a yellow light, or even a red light. They know that the arrow will follow after a brief few moments, and they don’t have to worry about cross traffic going. It gives them a couple extra seconds to get away with running a red light safely. Next time you’re at a light, count how many people actually go after 3 seconds of a yellow light or a red light. It’ll most likely be around 2 or 3. If you’re safely running red lights, don’t you think you will continue to do that in most intersections?
I used to live in some apartments at the corner of University and University. In one single day, I almost got in two accidents in the same intersection, neither of which would of been my fault. I was in the turning lane, waiting to turn left. I was out in the intersection getting ready to turn, and as the light turned yellow I began to turn. Because the road is slightly curved, it is hard to see cars coming around the bend. On each turn, cars flew through the intersection as I was turning and I had to swerve and slam on my breaks to avoid being t-boned from a red-light-runner.
Another way I think that drivers are accidently being conditioned to drive badly from the light system here, is the fact that lights are not timed. Lights are all on a mandatory routine. First the green light, next the turning arrow, then the cross street green light, finally followed by the cross street turning arrow, and repeat. A light in many cases will be green without a car even being there. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been sitting at a red light waiting for the turning arrow to turn red while no one was even in that lane to begin with. There is absolutely nothing more frustrating than waiting for absolutely no reason at all. Even more so, any time a small cross street wire gets tripped, the light immediately turns yellow every time! With the amount of people in this little city, you can forget about trying to be in a hurry. The only way to make lights is by going 15 mph over the speed limit and flying in and out of traffic. And I think this is exactly what people have figured out and learned to do.
In Mesa, I lived on the very South border of Mesa and Gilbert. I had tennis lessons on the very North end of Mesa. It would take me about 10 minutes to get to tennis. In Provo, it would take me most likely like 25 minutes. The difference is that in Mesa, if you are going to speed limit of 45 MPH, you can catch every light. They are timed so that by following the law, you are rewarded. Here in Provo it is the opposite. While driving south down State street from University Parkway on down, here in Provo, there is a stop light almost every half block, if not more. I can remember an instance when I was running late for work and I literally had to stop at every single light. This actually happens to me on multiple occasions.
So what do we do then? Continue to allow ourselves to rip our hair out while screaming to ourselves in our car? I know I don’t want to. The lights need to be timed. It’s a matter of safety. There is no reason that the main roads such as University Parkway, University Avenue, State Street, and so on can’t be timed. Just those 3 streets alone will make a world of a difference. As long as you’re going the speed limit and catch the route right, you should be able to get through all of the lights. Mesa, Arizona does it, so it’s possible. Why not do this? Why not make driving easier through the lights? I honestly think that if we made this change to the light system, drivers wouldn’t be so extreme and things could actually start to settle down around here.
The first step begins with you. If you are as aggravated as I am, and the thought of driving just makes your head ache, then write to the city council. It would even help to write to the mayor. He is most likely just as annoyed as you and I. If the mayor continually gets complaints about the lights, it’ll spark a change. Maybe not instantly, but overtime people will start driving safe again. We need to stop being lab rats trained to drive bad and step up to change it up around here.
Here you can see of the terrible things that are a result of running red lights. Fix the lights, fix the drivers.