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Light issue should be about safety

September 20, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

People, by nature, are creatures of habit, which means change isn't always well received. That appears to be the case in downtown Buckhannon, where four-way traffic stops have been newly installed at the following intersections: Main and Spring streets and Main and Florida streets.

The stops have replaced traditional traffic lights, and the West Virginia Department of Transportation is trying to determine if the change will improve safety and traffic flow. The DOT study is expected to last about six months.

Despite a minor fender-bender in the first few days of the new arrangement, traffic flow during the workday seems to have improved. However, the public's response to the four-way stops hasn't mirrored the same positive track record to date.

Some area residents have complained it is a bit more difficult for those who are elderly or differently abled to cross Main Street now that drivers only pause at those intersections instead of having a traffic light and crossing signal. Buckhannon City Administrator Michael Doss said the police department has been stepping up its enforcement in the area, cracking down on those who come only to a "rolling stop" before proceeding through the intersection.

He said the state soon will place "Yield to Pedestrians" signs along Main Street in an effort to make motorists more aware of people attempting to cross the intersection. To aid those who are visually impaired, the state also has plans to install strips to help those citizens better locate the designated crosswalk areas.

Those measures proved to be successful in front of the Buckhannon Post Office, as motorists there typically stop for pedestrians. It would stand to reason then that, once conditioned to the new traffic control measurers, motorists would follow suit on Main Street.

Perhaps what this new intersection configuration needs is more time for drivers to become accustomed to the four-way stops. In addition, officials should double their efforts to educate both drivers and pedestrians about the changes, in the interest of protecting and improving public safety.

Such safety matters must be a two-way street. We are taught as children to look both ways before crossing the street, but a similar philosophy also should apply to the driving public. Patience at intersections should become the norm.

If the community fails to adhere to the new stop signs, then the traffic lights most likely will be reconnected. This, then, would return us to the days when waiting through two or three light changes was standard when traffic backed up on Main Street.

We feel safety, instead of traffic flow, should be the deciding factor when determining the ultimate fate of the signs versus lights. Only time - and hopefully this DOT study - will tell what is in the community's best interest.



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