Drivers were taught early on to treat malfunctioning stoplights as a four-way stop, but few motorists do at the intersection of Third and Lafayette in Detroit. Many drive through the light without stopping. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
Hey, idiot. I mean you, the woman in the navy Buick LaCrosse.
And hey, other idiot. You, the man in the gray Mercury Grand Marquis who also blasted through the intersection without so much as a pause.
Hey, gray Dodge Magnum. Hey, tan Ford Taurus. Hey, black Toyota Prius. And hey, FedEx truck: When the traffic signals aren’t working, you treat an intersection as a four-way stop.
Oh, and speaking of remedial ...
Dear City of Detroit, the signals have been out for a month at the corner of West Lafayette Boulevard and Third Street. Do you think maybe you could send a guy over with a wrench? Or at least put up some temporary stop signs?
Nicole Holmes Sherer of Troy sincerely wishes you would. Her 2012 Ford Fusion had its front end rearranged Friday afternoon by a 1999 Nissan Sentra.
Antonio Folmar of Detroit wishes you would, too. He was driving the Nissan, and bless his heart, he was even more upset than Sherer.
Westbound on Lafayette into the sun, he thought the light was green. Or more specifically, “I didn’t see red. So I just kept going.”
Bam. Two afternoons ruined. Two cars and two sets of nerves the worse for wear, too. But look on the bright side:
At least a pedestrian hasn’t been clipped.
Cars 23, common sense 0
In the 15 minutes after Folmar traded information with Sherer and drove away, I stood at the intersection and kept score. Twenty-three drivers ran the intersection.
Gray Chevy Silverado 4-by-4, driver on the phone, westbound. White Ford Edge, faintest hint of slowing down, eastbound. Black Jeep Grand Cherokee, southbound on Third, left turn. No lights, no stop signs, no stopping.
Across four weeks, my level of irritation has been rising. So has my middle finger, because Lafayette and Third is The Detroit News’ corner, and when a pedestrian finally goes flying, chances are it’ll be someone I know.
I haven’t called the emergency manager’s office. That seems self-serving. Plenty of things don’t work in the city: streetlights, stoplights, fire trucks, building inspectors.
There’s no reason our intersection should be special — but there’s no reason anybody’s intersection should be ignored. And keep in mind that Lafayette and Third is all of 1 ½ blocks from the spiffy new Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, the official police department beehive.
If nothing else, you’d think the city would assign someone to perch on the corner and write stacks of income-generating tickets. Why sell a Van Gogh when you can catch a van, going? Green Ford Windstar, westbound.
Not my department
According to the police department's spokesman, the lighting department says it never received a request for service on the outage.
Brian Bourland, who oversees security for the Detroit Media Partnership, says the lighting squad has actually been pestered repeatedly. Once he even saw a workman get out of a truck and stare at the grayish control box, almost as if he were interested in what might be going on inside it.
Then the truck drove away, and people who can’t remember the basics of driver training went back to blasting through the intersection.
Cab drivers, interestingly, are almost universally observant of the rule. East-west drivers are worse than north-south.
A week ago Saturday, a newer Cadillac was involved in a collision serious enough to require an ambulance. There were no sirens Friday, but Sherer, 40, has a chronically sore lower back, and a violent collision is not what the chiropractor ordered.
“It could have been a whole lot worse,” she said. “If I hadn’t hit my brakes, he could have hit my driver’s-side door.”
Folmar, 42, took a last look at the battered right front section of his Nissan and climbed back behind the wheel to go pick up his mom.
“Get the damn light fixed,” he said, but the people who do that weren’t listening.