Saturday, February 02, 2008

Is Nothing Sacred? Or, An Ominous Turn of Events

In Michigan the blinking red is going the way of AutoWorld.

The Associated Press reports that the state will phase out all blinking red traffic lights in left-turn lanes. The feds are forcing the state to do it in the name of public safety. Seems a bunch of studies say the blinking reds are unsafe.

If you talk to any Michigander who's relocated to another part of the country, he'll inevitably tell you that one of the things he misses most about the Mitten is the blinking red. Expat Michigan drivers are mildly offended that their traffic signals don't trust them to make a left-hand turn when there's no oncoming traffic. Michigan drivers also drive at a baseline speed of 80 on the highways, which kind of terrifies me now.

But I always liked the blinking reds. It gave me a sense of independence as a motorist. The blinking red said to me, "Go ahead, Craig. I think you have enough of a brain to turn left at an appropriate and safe traffic juncture." When I was younger and driving outside the state, I always thought I happened to be in one of the few, peculiar areas to not have the blinking red. After I realized it was something unique to Michigan (and Delaware, it turns out), I added this to my list of complaints about whatever driving culture I was in e.g. Ohio drivers have no clue what the left lane is for, and California drivers consider stop signs to be merely octagonal pieces of public art.

Makes you wonder what other aspects of Michigania will end up as nothing but old folks' memories by the time Maggie J. Hud is old enough to spend a summer back on the peninsula: Michigan lefts? Black flies? MSU football futility? Detroit?

So get your left turns in the way God and Governor Milliken intended them before the G Men come to town. And pick me up some Bar-Scheeze while you're at it.


Pat said...


That is a straight-up brilliant piece of writing.

I miss those blinking reds and am sorry to hear of their imminent demise. And I, too, am terrified now by highway driving in Michigan. I can't believe that used to seem normal. It's a symphony of danger (or a free-jazz piece, really) and its players regard it -- and therefore their own highly increased risk of bodily harm -- with nonchalance. That said, I prefer it to the leisurely "Whoa there, friend, no need to drive 73. Let's all get their safely. Anyone want some Luna Bars?" sort of attitude that clogs up the passing lanes in the Pacific Northwest.

I will miss blinking reds. You can't go home again, they say.

But they better not touch our Michigan lefts, Bar-Scheeze, Bell's Beer, or begrudging affinity for the Nuge.

Craig said...

Which is ironic, because driving while eating is dangerous.

And driving while eating Luna bars makes you a pansy.