Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ruh-Roh On Red

UMPD had to attend 2 Eastern Hampshire District Court hearings

I always try to blend in when covering Eastern Hampshire District Court proceedings and since they deal with a cross section of the Happy Valley it's not all that hard to do.

 I also only use an iPhone for photos so I can be as inconspircous as possible, although I do carry a classic reporters notebook and old fashioned pen to take notes which does tend to stand out.

And on occassion I've been known to mutter under my breath -- but loud enough for some court officials nearby to hear -- when someone appears for their 4th or 5th DUI offense.

Or I occasionally laugh out loud at one of Judge Payne's animated expressions.

But yesterday was the first time I had to resist the urge to raise my hand and offer input on a matter as though I were attending an Amherst public meeting.

A woman was given a ticket for "failure to stop at a stop sign" at the intersection of University Drive and Massachusetts Avenue, a leading gateway to our illustrious University.

She had already lost the Clerk Magistrate's Hearing and was now appealing that to the Judge.  She told Judge Payne that after the first hearing she returned to the scene of the crime but could find no stop sign.

The officer responded that a flashing red light is a stop sign and she did not come to a complete stop.  Judge Payne agreed with the officer and upheld the ticket.

For those of you who come upon that intersection for the first time you probably think it's under repair and that is why the lights are flashing: red if you are on University Drive and yellow if you are on Massachusetts Avenue.

But they are always like that, going on many, many years now.

Yet the intersection is only a stone's throw away from the one at Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenue, where the traffic lights are fully signalized.

And if you are on University Drive taking a right (which should be a "right turn on red") you can see all the way into Hadley to your left for oncoming traffic.

With as many Planners as UMass employs you would think somebody could tweak the lights at that busy intersection to serve a more useful purpose.


Yes, I did roll through this yesterday while enroute to a "box alarm" at Du Bois Library

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting, it's been this way since at least 1986. IMO it is safer this way because nobody knows WTF is going on so everybody has to slow waaay down and be super careful. But a miniroundabout (?) would be perfect.

Guilford mentioned this intersection when he was telling Vince why he wouldn't put a stop sign on Sunderland Rd. where it meets Montague Rd. in N. Amherst. He said signalizing one direction but not the other like the Univ. Dr. one creates confusion.

Larry Kelley said...

Well since nobody now knows WTF is going on, a little confusion would be a step up.

Hilda Greenbaum said...

What is WTF?? I use these roads all the time. Hilda

Larry Kelley said...

What The Fuck. (Which I seldom us).

Anonymous said...

If you got pulled over for not coming to a complete stop do you think you would have deserved a ticket? Would you have appealed it? A step deeper, seeing you admit to committing an legal infraction and have it on video shouldn't you for the good of safety and the good of the republic self-report it to the police and surrender the video and accept your punishment?

Larry Kelley said...

Wouldn't you have the temerity to leave your name on something if you really thought it was important?

Anonymous said...

C'mon Larry turn yourself in. Now that would be funny!!!

Walter Graff said...

This is one of the most dangerous intersections in Amherst.

Red two ways and yellow one way. Problem is there is no indication of such, so if you are on University drive and see a car coming from your left, you dont know if he has to stop or has yellow (but would assume yellow), while the left lane in other direction is a stop(which you would assume is also a yellow as he has right of way over you but not to opposite traffic). Normally both ways would be yellow with the customary right of way to forward moving traffic over left turning traffic. How it is now is the University driver and the left turner off Mass Drive juggle who is going, both often confused, and before you know it, another car is coming from your left, and wham. Really should make this intersection more user friendly. It's more than confusing as it is now.

That said, this woman needs to go to driver training school again.

Citizen Sane said...

Unless you are an authorized first responder with appropriate lights and/or sirens on, going to the scene of a box alarm at the UMass library does not give you permission to wildly veer from the left turn lane to the right turn lane, then speed through a flashing red light without stopping.

And everyone knows exactly WTF is going on. Flashing red light: stop, look, proceed when safe. Everyone, that is, except our friendly neighborhood blogger who sees it as permission to erratically switch lanes and run right through the light without stopping.

Anonymous said...

Always seems like a stop to me. Anyone else pass the Mass. driver's license exam?

Anonymous said...

Lets just do what we please, WTF.

Gordon Freed said...

What is the accident rate there? How much would it cost to have it a regular r/y/g light? I don't think that it is a town-owned intersection. I always assumed it was an experiment in traffic design.

Anonymous said...

Flashing red light means the same thing in all states of the United States. Stop and proceed when safe to do so. But not in the republic of Amherst. It means , you can do what you want, when you want to do it, then question it when you get caught. Apparently, not this time. Anyone with common sense, knows that, but again, we are in the republic.

Anonymous said...

Hey Larry, do you know, your not supposed to take pictures in the courtroom ? !! Your not press, although you may think you are a journalist, your not.

Larry Kelley said...

Gordon: I know there was a car vs pedestrian accident with serious injury to a student near there at the beginning of November, as I was listening to it on the scanner while coming to Town Meeting.

Electricity costs for a signalized intersection are around $2,000 per year. Right now it's kind of a waste as the traffic lights are really nothing more than stop signs depending on which way you are traveling.

This intersection is not town owned, it's all UMass. Apparently they don't care.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kelly , nice to see that you were able to break two separate motor vehicle infractions. Turn from wrong lane, (left lane taking a right turn) but your obvious disregard for the traffic and the law, only goes to show that you have an agenda and not what is best for the people in the area. Great job bud. You just proved what you are.

Anonymous said...

The pedestrian accident was approximately 300 yards south of there and no where near the intersection. Nice try though and you should know your facts, before offering your rumors to whats wrong.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah I forgot just how wide angled my dashcam is, so I wanted to make sure I got the blinking yellow light over there on the left (which is really dumb, because taking a left at that intersection is far more dangerous than taking a right, so why yellow for a left and red for a right?)

And my surname is spelled with an extra E. See, now if the officer misspelled my name on the ticket I would point that out to the Judge and ask, "So what else did he screw up?"

Larry Kelley said...

Actually CAN 5:55 PM, unlike a lot of reporters I'm certified by both the Associated Press and Supreme Judicial Court to carry a camera into a courtroom.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is a really confusing and hence dangerous intersection. Though it is clear from the flashing red, that one is supposed to stop, there is no clarity about what anyone else in oncoming lanes are supposed to do and who, if anyone, has the right of way after coming to a stop. As Larry states, there is no way to know what kind of signal drivers in other lanes are responding to. Is it a three way flashing red, for example? Apparently not, but how can a driver in real time know that? Also, there is a double lane going left. Is it OK to stop and move into the left of those double lanes with oncoming traffic when heading west (towards Hadley), or should one remain stopped till all traffic is cleared (which at certain times of day can take forever).

Anonymous said...

The one thing you know is you have to come to a complete stop. Then you can figure out the rest without hitting anyone.

Larry Kelley said...

Except if you're taking a left, then you have a flashing yellow.

Anonymous said...

The fact you made it a point to take a wide turn so your dashboard cam could pickup the yellow light shows you were a distracted driver and that is wrong. You're on a college campus where students are walking so your focus should be on the road not worrying about getting the correct angel for your dashboard camera. This is as bad as texting and driving. Shame on you! You post other peoples malfeasance's then think you are above the law. Shame.Shame.Shame.

Larry Kelley said...

Geeze I'm having flashbacks to my Catholic school nun days, paying penance in the cloakroom.

Anonymous said...

A sign stating "Oncoming traffic does NOT stop" is common in some other states with such intersection.

Anonymous said...

Penance in a penitentiary next….

Larry Kelley said...

Yes because rolling through a stop with no traffic in sight will get me on the FBI most wanted list.

Anonymous said...

Not the FBI's list but it should get you on the Only in the republic of Amherst Dishonor list.

Larry Kelley said...

Actually I don't cover traffic offenses, Well, until today.

But with the amount of buzz this post has generated I may start covering more.

Dr. Ed said...

My understanding is that UM initially had these lights synchronized with the now-replaced set of lights further up the hill. This was a common arrangement in the 1970s. Except that it never worked, created major traffic jams, so was put on blink and just left that way.

Anonymous said...

That intersection is there for the benefit of the courts. If they fix it and help people that would be like harsher drunk driving rules, it will hurt the bottom line of public employee pay, thus we will leave it and sacrifice citizens for the ultimate....public employee pay. Any sacrifice is justified, even kids getting run over as Larry described.

Agqin, the public sector has little concern for drunk drivers...what's a bad intersection by design in comparison? A drop in the bucket.

We are busy redisigning major public employee projects so they can get more money, leqve us alone.

Dr. Ed said...

Citizen Sane - Even if he had been a duly-authorized first responder, he ought not have done what he did. You are still at fault, siren or not, there is case law on that.

Amongst other things, you gotta give other vehicles a way to get out of your way, which means you declare your intentions and take as little of the intersection as possible.

It would be interesting to see what Judge Payne would say were someone to take a clip of the video down to him -- actually the Clerk Magistrate first -- I think Larry would be out a couple hundred dollars...

Larry Kelley said...

That's actually not how things work.

The police issue tickets -- in this case it would be UMPD. The Clerk Magistrate upholds or strikes them down, and then a Judge is final arbiter should it get that far.

In this particular case, I think Judge Payne would find you in contempt for wasting his time.