Use of temporary traffic control signs suspended; police officials urge caution

HEIGHTS – To conform to a policy set forth by the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Police Department suspended use of temporary traffic control signs at intersections where the permanent signals are not functioning properly.

“The policy does concern us” Police Chief Lee Gavin said. “In the past, when traffic signals were knocked out of commission due to events like power outages or accidents, we had the ability to put temporary stop signs in place that helped restore some degree of traffic control until the signals were back in operation.

“These signs helped maintain some degree of order – particularly during times of heavy traffic,” he said. “MDOT’s policy essentially prohibits us from placing any type of temporary signage at intersections where traffic signals are not functioning properly. The only alternative allowed is to place police officers at the intersection to direct traffic.”

Gavin is concerned that, in cases of larger-scale incidents, such as storms, where responders may be needed on a widespread basis, there may not be sufficient personnel to cover all affected intersections.

“This creates some real safety concerns for us” he said.

“When several vehicles arrive at an unmanned intersection at once, there is bound to be some confusion about who has the right of way,” Gavin said. “In addition, while most drivers are generally courteous and will exercise some patience during situations like this, there are also those who will choose to pass through the intersection without stopping – with no regard for others. Either way, the potential for vehicle crashes and injuries will increase.

Gavin recommends drivers who experience an “un-controlled” intersection should treat it as a four-way stop, and above all, exercise some patience and common sense.

“That’s not the time to prove to the world that you’re in a hurry to get someplace” he said. “Exercising some patience for a few extra minutes will ensure everyone will get through the intersection safely.”