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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Treat delays lightly

When I wrote of road rage recently, I noted that much driver anger arises over issues of time and our actual or perceived lack of it.  When I or others sense a degree of disgust with another driver, it’s often because those drivers are unfairly, illegally, or unnecessarily detaining us.

Whether our irritation stems from a slow vehicle at the head of our pack, a left-lane blocker, a driver who won’t take a “free” right on red, too-slow green light departures or some other progress-stealing act, we all hate to be detained against our will. 

The best irritation-avoidance tactic is to not actually be in a hurry.  Depart for your destination at a time that allows an extra margin of minutes to get there.  Drivers who don’t signal may still annoy you, and tailgaters may raise ire, but those who impede your progress should not be an aggravation.

 And don’t perceive a lack of time if you really have plenty.  If you are in no true hurry, you should be able to adopt a carefree approach to inevitable delays.  Hopefully, that will allow you to simply take a deep breath and listen to music on the radio while you sit in traffic, because you still have plenty of time to get to work, a wedding, or whatever.

Even when in no rush, I admit to disappointment when hitting several red lights in a row.  It’s minor aggravation though, which is much easier to accept if I am not pressed for time.  Such holdups are minimal and inconsequential when not late for something

Stop lights are not actually a critical time issue anyway since most red light durations are only about one minute, and even the longest ones rarely hold cars for two minutes.  We just have to train ourselves to not perceive a rush and to not resent momentary delays.

Nevertheless, red lights will never be met with pleasure, especially if drivers feel they are not timed or regulated properly.  I have heard from many drivers about their “favorite” routes with poorly timed lights.

Some traffic light programs designed by transportation engineers may have shortcomings in the real world.  It seems they should be designed to accommodate the majority of traffic, but at times they seem to consider minor traffic equally or may cater immediately to a single pedestrian or vehicle on the cross street.

I have noted that situation at a light near my home that is green for arterial traffic almost perpetually.  But when a vehicle on a small cross street appears, it triggers the light instantly, stopping arterial traffic.  The same thing happens when a pedestrian there pushes the crossing button.

It might be better from a driver warning standpoint to delay the vehicle or pedestrian on the smaller cross street for about 30 seconds before triggering the green light.  That way, drivers on the busy arterial would have additional time to recognize them and allow for the possibility of the arrival of a second vehicle or pedestrian, letting them both cross on the same green and stopping arterial traffic only once.

If certain traffic light timing is a particular nuisance, drivers can always make a reasoned complaint to their state’s Department of Transportation.  For me, simply choosing an alternate route instead of travelling known aggravating or unsafe traffic locations is a good stress-avoider.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at