We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Road sensors can trigger driver angst

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, October 5th, 2012

In left-turn lanes on major intersections with vehicle sensors under the pavement, it's essential that the first vehicle in line trip the sensor, or no one is going anywhere.

As I pulled up to the red light, I saw a very strange sight.

I was behind a driver in a silver car who had not pulled all the way forward onto the magnetic loop that triggers a change in the traffic light. The driver behind me, who was in a red car, pulled out to pass on the left and ended up partially in the intersection. He then backed up until the looping markings on the road had been covered and activated.

He was now directly in front of the driver in the silver car who had not pulled all the way forward. The driver in the red car got out, walked back to the occupant of the silver car and began to deride him in a rather animated fashion.

Horns began to honk, although it was hard to tell if they were approving or disapproving. The lane of traffic was in the left-turn position and it was clear to everyone that traffic would never move until the magnetic looping was covered.

Eventually, the tirade ended, the traffic light turned green and everyone proceeded through the intersection.

Luckily, everyone had stayed in their vehicle except the driver on the verge of road rage.

The next example of the looping mix-up is more comical. A cyclist arrived at the red traffic light, jumped off his bike and began to roll the bike back and forth over the looping device in a horizontal motion. The driver who had pulled up behind the cyclist got out of his car to help the bike rider look for whatever he had supposedly lost on the road. He was oblivious to what was happening and how a magnetic road-embedded device functioned.

The bike rider was trying to expose as much metal to the magnet as possible. Eventually, the quizzical driver was directed to move up and trigger the circular pad, much to the delight of the drivers present.

Some scooters and motorcycles do not have enough metal exposed to the looped pad to trip the sensors that change the traffic light from red to green. Many of these riders will dismount and push the pedestrian-controlled button to get through the intersection in a timely fashion.

The third strange and somewhat threatening driver behaviour occurred at an intersection where another clueless driver had not covered the magnetic looping device. Knowing the traffic light would never change to green without the lead driver pulling forward, the driver immediately behind got out of his vehicle and tapped on the window of the lead driver.

The lead driver was startled and refused to open his window. The other man began yelling and screaming so loud that the driver looked both ways and proceeded through the red light when it was safe, thereby activating the looping device. The loud and offensive driver was left standing in the middle of the road while approaching drivers went through the intersection. He quickly scrambled into his car and was gone in a flash.

It’s amazing how many drivers do not know about simple, visible technological advances in traffic management, such as the magnetic equipment embedded in the road.

Even more amazing is the lack of signage used by cities to educate and inform drivers.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Interior of B.C. He is the former vice-president of the Driving School Association of the Americas.


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