For the love of moving traffic


Our current headlines include the following:

Looming economic strife for GM Lordstown.

A president ALL-CAPPING threats around the globe.

And nature run amok with spewing volcanoes, wildfires, flooding and more.

Each, on its own, ignites a smattering of chatter amongst people at your local bearded beer guy joint.

But if you want to get everyone talking about one thing, bring up traffic law enforcement.

I had a friend call me about a speed-camera ticket in Trumbull County.

I’m guessing he has enough cash to pay a ticket a day for 365 days and not know he’s missing money. Yet, with a $100 fine to pay in this town, he:

Researched the laws about how he was ticketed.

Inspected and videoed the area where he was ticketed and believed the police to be in violation of state law.

He took time out of work to fight his ticket.

He won.

Not only did he win for him, but also for the other people there that day ticketed under the same circumstances. Their tickets were dismissed. No one bought him a bearded-guy beer.

But he did not call me about that event.

He called me because weeks later, he drove the same stretch and saw police ticketing again without having addressed the issue that allowed him to win.

“Jerks,” he said. (Well – it was stronger than “jerks,” but this is a family paper.)

Attorney Marc Dann is making a lot of local headlines for unabashedly attacking Girard’s traffic enforcement. He has class- action lawsuit activity going against the city.

State Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th, called the use of rapid-fire traffic cameras a money grab by small towns. He’s involved in state legislation to restrict use.

This week, the Ohio Department of Transportation jumped into the game. It wants all local government traffic-enforcement warning signs off state highways if they don’t have permits. The trouble is, state law allowing towns to use rapid-fire traffic-enforcement cameras also requires proper warning signs on the affected roads. The classic bit in this ODOT move is that Hubbard and Howland did actually have permits, and ODOT booted them, too.

ODOT’s message: You need to have permits, and even if you do, we still don’t want you profiting off of our roads.

Again – we have real problems that get society and government attention. But get outta line on traffic-enforcement issues, and it’s an Irish pub donnybrook.

I am jumping in, too, but not about the cameras. (They have done wonders on I-680 where there were huge problems.)

I want a review and a redo on “No right turn on red” restrictions that infiltrate our lives.

I get that when “right on red” became mostly nationwide in 1980, some pause was needed with this newfound freedom.

But just as we eventually learned to pump our own gas and no longer needed specialists to do so, we’ve also safely managed life with “turn right on red” laws – which allow the action “after stopping” and “when the road is clear.”

Here are the top places that have wasted enough of my life equal to eight viewings of all three “Godfather” films:

South Avenue at Western Reserve Road – on the Poland side of I-680 – wanting to turn east toward Poland.

For awhile, I started timing the sits. I once sat there for 2 minutes at about 11:30 p.m. There was only one other car in that time – and it was parked. It was a Springfield Township police car that I had no faith would apply the same logic to my situation that I was, which was “Why am I sitting here?”

So. I. Sat.

Fifth Street in Struthers near St. Nick’s Church has a sign I can’t agree with. Every day, every minute – no turn on red onto Wilson Street from either direction. I’m in the area to have my cars fixed by the most gentlemanly abusive car mechanic known to mankind. Restricted right turns there – such as during church and school – make sense. But 24/7/365 no-right-turn is societal regression.

The last restricted turn that’s excessive is in Youngstown.

It’s outside our office, and it’s admittedly a weird intersection of Front and Marshall streets and Vindicator Square. Four roads come together not like a normal cross, but like four spider legs. And there’s no right on red across the board. I’ve lost hours there. Heck, I’ve even seen government cars ignore this red-light restriction.

These are just three in the Valley. I imagine there are 1,000 that could be revised.

I suggest eliminating most of them.

In any “no turn” situation, there are probably 60 minutes daily of overwhelming traffic that need heightened driver awareness. The other 23 hours are manageable for anyone who can pump their own gas.

For those 60 minutes, the stated law in and of itself is a restriction: “Come to a stop” and “Proceed when clear.”

For the 1 percent of drivers who cannot do this properly, the law itself has citable steps in place. “Driver failed to proceed when clear.”

Again – there are more important life issues to tackle.

But since traffic enforcement is getting so much energy these days, I wanted to get this off my chest. ... And hope by chance the Springfield police will share in my logic the next time we share the same roadside darkness.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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