We’ve been noticing the new golden-edged traffic lights hanging over intersections of U.S. Highway 160/550 east and south of town. Besides their improved visibility, what’s new and improved about these fixtures? Thank you for being our go-to when it comes to signs and signals around Durango. – Renee and Todd
Could gold rims be the latest sign of apocalypse?
You can practically hear the malcontents muttering.
“First, all them Realtors say the streets are paved with gold. Now progressives are putting up fancy new frames to match.”
“Yup. It’s Agenda 21 at work, caused by chemtrails, chain migration and the Durango City Council.”
OK, that wasn’t fair or nice.
It’s what happens when Action Line is given the green light for red-faced buffoonery.
So let’s get back to the question: What’s new and improved with traffic signals outlined in golden-yellow?
The newly installed frames are reflective. Thus, at night, each traffic light will appear outlined.
That may not seem like a big deal. Unless you’re color blind.
According to the National Eye Institute, as many as 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women with Northern European ancestry have the common form of red-green color blindness.
If you have a color-vision problem and drive at night, how can you tell if a traffic light is red or green?
In the daytime, people with color blindness can easily compensate, determining stop or go based on the position of the illuminated dot.
But in the darkness of night, it can be difficult or impossible to distinguish whether it’s the top light (red) or bottom (green).
“With a reflective frame around each light, it puts the traffic signals in context, giving drivers with color blindness the ability to tell immediately what ‘color’ the traffic light is, based on its place within the frame,” said Mike McVaughn, regional transportation director for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Thus, frames are a great improvement that will help thousands of people across the state and millions of people nationwide.
Mike pointed out that reflective frames are now part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the standard for all DOTs across the country.
“The situation with color blindness was recognized, so these upgrades are happening on a national level,” Mike said.
Here in Durango, crews add the frames during each signal-improvement project, such as the ongoing work on U.S. Highway 550 through town.
A recent drive up North Main showed that most of the traffic lights have the new reflective frames.
If you were curious about different forms of color blindness, check out this really interesting online simulator for various forms of the condition. Visit https://tinyurl.com/colorDGO.
As you can see, color blindness is neither a black-and-white situation. Nor is it 50 shades of gray.
In fact, we shouldn’t call it “blindness” at all. The better phrase is “color vision deficiency.”
But some will turn a blind eye toward that description, claiming not have their sight clouded by political correctness.
So much for the color commentary.
Let’s just thank CDOT and others for seeing the light and helping to make night driving easier and safer.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 80301. You can request anonymity if puce is the new aquamarine.