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What a mess!

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

What a mess!

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
October 1, 2009

I just came through Crystal Lake in hard rain, and the lights were out on U.S. 14 at IL 176, South Ridgefield Road and at College Entrance 1 Road at MCC. What a mess!

The worst intersection was at 14 & 176, by the Shell station and McDonald's. As locals know, it's not a 90-degree intersection. Drivers were treating the intersection as a four-way stop, since the lights were out, and drivers were tentative about entering the darkened intersection.

It didn't help a lot that a police car was sitting in the Shell station near Route 14 with his overhead lights flashing. Where was the officer? In the car and dry?

I remember directing traffic one afternoon at a similar intersection in Colorado. I was on the way home from my office, not in uniform, and the lights were out after a heavy rainstorm. There were two through lanes in each direction and left-turn lanes in each direction. The first thing I did was get all the traffic stopped. Nobody moved.

Then I let traffic go in one direction at a time. Nobody else moved. When a local officer showed up, he sat in his car and watched. It was his town, not mine, and I finally walked over to ask why he hadn't come out to help. His answer was that he was waiting for back-up!

Traffic control can be handled safely by one officer, as long as he takes charge of the intersection. He doesn't have to be whistle-happy and should only use the whistle to command attention, not to hurry traffic along. Crisp, clear, military-style arm and hand gestures gain the respect of drivers and they pay attention.

Drivers seldom see "professional" traffic control away from military bases. Occasionally, a retired M.P. will carry those skills into a civilian department.

Why an officer wasn't out in the intersection in a bright yellow slicker with a flashlight with a long, orange cone on it tonight, I don't really know. "Officer safety," perhaps. The heck with traffic flow.

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