SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – The traffic light has been around for near 100 years and is arguably one of the most important pieces of road technology. However, it’s one of the things drivers don’t give much thought to until it causes them problems.
South Carolina Department of Transportation‘s Director of Communication, Pete Poore, said that’s when a call to their toll-free number 1-855-467-2368 is needed. Response time to the call is typically between two to three days, he added.
“If you’re a motorist, a member of the public, and you think the light’s too short. Let us know and we’ll take a look,” Poore explained.
SCDOT is charged with managing 900 signals across all 46 counties. Cities like Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson manage their own traffic lights, thus drivers must be aware of where their problem light is located.
According to SCDOT most of their traffic signals are run through either radar, cameras, or a ground loop detection systems.
The Federal Highway Administration for the United States Department of Transportation explained that the use of Pavement Invasive (Inductive Loop or ‘ground loop’) or Non-pavement Invasive (Microwave Radar and Video Image Processor) detectors all depends on the intersection. These detectors help with the timing for vehicles stop and go.
Poore added that a problem with any county light is taken seriously, because technology can fail for one reason or another. Thus, if a light feels too short, too long, or just plain broken, he noted that calling to log a complaint should get results.
“A real person will answer that phone and take the information. What they do, is they will turn that information over to a particular area, a Traffic Engineer,” Poore said. “If you, the concerned citizen, have not gotten a response beyond 15 days, the customer service center will track it. He or she will go back to the person that they sent it to and say, ‘What’s the answer?’ “
7News TaTiana Cash asked viewers on social media which lights they were having problems with. Several complaints about the signal at International Drive and Fairforest Road in Spartanburg County came up. On December 11, the light was monitored and one of the signals facing International Drive wasn’t allowing drivers to turn left onto Fairforest. A forklift was witnessed waiting more than 4 minutes to turn left. Eventually the driver gave up and turned right.
“There may be some adjustments needed and we are happy to listen to the public’s request,” Poore said.
USDOT’s Traffic Control Systems Handbook has numerous reasons as to why the light didn’t change:
- Vehicles don’t pull close enough to the white line to trigger the detector
- Pavement Invasive detectors may need asphalt repairs to work properly
- One of the bulbs could be out
Whatever the reason, Cash called SCDOT and the department sent out engineers on December 12. The department explained that a crew checked the traffic computer and light, but found nothing wrong with the signal. Yet, Cash went back to the signal a little over a week after the call and found that the light functioned much better.
In a different signal situation, when a driver believes an intersection needs a light, they should still call the toll-free number, Poore said.
The call will start a Traffic Study. The study determine whether the intersection meets US DOT national guidelines to qualify for a light.
“There are a series of what’s called warrants. Does this intersection warrant a traffic signal? Because of traffic flow, crash data, etc, etc. It may not make the request; it may not meet the standards. The answer might be that we cannot put up a signal here,” Poore said.
If a light is needed, Poore explained, it will be installed. But the installation process does takes time since there are several steps after the traffic study.
Once the study on the area’s traffic flow has called for a signal, funds have to be raised to pay for the light. Then, construction for the light also has to take place. This could take anywhere from a few months to years. Thus, it’s best to pack your patience.