EDITORIAL: Lights, action

The federal government’s first responsibility is national security – ensuring the stability of the nation and the safety of citizens.
Similarly, public safety is the most important function of local governments. Protecting life and property is priority No. 1. That includes the principal areas of crime prevention and protection, firefighting and traffic control.
Sometimes decisions are made in these areas that have unintended consequences, and responsive governments correct them when circumstances demand it. The Tupelo City Council took such action last week when it voted to reinstate traffic lights at two Tupelo intersections on a recommendation from the city’s Traffic Committee.
The lights at the intersections of Jefferson and Church streets, Jefferson and Broadway, Green and Magazine and Green and Elliot were removed in August 2007 and replaced with two-way stop signs. Since then, total accidents at the four intersections have nearly tripled. Clearly, the move – intended to improve traffic flow – hasn’t turned out to be in the interest of public safety.
Part of the problem was confusion about rights-of-way at the intersections. They were difficult to figure out for motorists, even those who use the intersections frequently. Signs had to be put up on the Jefferson Street intersections to direct motorists on the other streets to yield.
Time and familiarity didn’t help. Safety risk was an ongoing factor.
Confronted with the data and citizen concerns, the Traffic Committee responded appropriately in its recommendation to the council after a request from Mayor Jack Reed Jr. to consider the issue. The two intersections with the biggest increases in accidents – Jefferson and Church and Green and Magazine – will have traffic lights re-installed this week.
Government doesn’t always move swiftly to correct decisions that haven’t turned out as intended. This is one circumstance where the opposite is true.
The committee and the council have done the right thing with the priority where it should be: on what is best for the safety of Tupelo citizens and others who use city streets. The reinstalled lights will leave no doubt about how traffic should flow, eliminating the confusion and uncertainty that undoubtedly have contributed to the upswing in accidents.
City government has met its responsibility in this case with admirable flexibility and dispatch.

NEMS Daily Journal