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What is a Traffic Control Device?

Amid the chaos of a collision scene this afternoon came a call over the police radio: "grab that vehicle, it just drove around the cones and into oncoming traffic!" Not only did the emergency workers have to deal with a two vehicle collision in an intersection full of emergency vehicles, they also had to contend with drivers who were going through no matter what. The line of cones blocking the lane might not have been seen as something the driver needed to take meaning from in this situation.

A traffic control device can be many things including: a sign, signal, line, meter, marking, space, barrier or device. In this case, the cones would be considered a device and when placed across the lane are a traffic control device that bars traffic from proceeding. Failing to obey them may place yourself or others at risk and could result in the issue of a violation ticket.

This is a very narrow view of the huge number of traffic control devices that we encounter when we drive every day. Signs are self evident, but it sometimes seems that the message conveyed by the type of line painted on the roadway, arrows painted on the roadway or lights, signs and barriers in a construction zone or collision scene are either confusing for some drivers or convenient to disobey as it suits others.

Almost all of these devices should be self evident and all drivers should know what to do. In this case, it seems that the driver did not. Should one drive into the oncoming lane toward a crash scene filled with emergency vehicles with flashing lights? Yes, if directed to do so by a person in authority when no other way exists to get past. Otherwise, stop and wait, or as in this case, make a U-turn and go around the block.

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