Strong opinions, weakly held

Treat it as a four way stop

This weekend we had a significant weather event as a tornado blew through and caused a lot of damage. In a lot of areas, tornadoes caused power outages and a number of traffic lights were out, even after power was restored in some cases.

I was surprised to see that many, many drivers did not treat intersections with disabled traffic signals as four way stops. I don’t know whether people don’t know that’s the law, or they just don’t care, but I repeatedly saw people blowing through intersections without even slowing down.

Lanny GriffithWhen I lived in Houston, KLOL (now a Latin station, apparently, but for many years a classic rock mainstay) ran a traffic segment called “Traffic in Bondage,” reported by the TrafficMaster Lanny Griffith. Houston has lots of traffic, and Lanny Griffith was perhaps the greatest traffic reporter ever. How many traffic reporters do you know of who have a devoted fan base?

One of his signature bits was, “Traffic signals are out at Westheimer and Gessner. Treat it as a four way stop! Hwah!” Everyone who listened to KLOL heard that, usually multiple times per day. This, to me, will always be the essence of public service journalism. I wish someone had taken a poll at the time that compared the level of awareness of what to do when traffic signals are out among Houstonians to Americans in general.

We don’t have such a traffic reporter here, and very few people seem to know how to drive. When you arrive at an intersection with the traffic signals out, treat it as a four way stop.

On an unrelated note, in the photo, Lanny Griffith is biting a Key Map of Houston, which was the best navigation aide you could possess prior to the age of MapQuest and GPS receivers. Owning one was absolutely essential if you had a job that required driving around. The company that publishes them is still in business and still produces maps only of Houston and its surrounding areas.


  1. After the first line of the second paragraph, Lanny’s admonition sprang immediately to mind. If you lived in Houston at the right time, you don’t forget it.

  2. I made the same observation a while back when the electricity was out. Someone told me that some people just don’t register that there’s a light at all if they don’t see it. I find that hard to believe.

  3. Keymap has (or, had) a monopoly on Houston government. For a long time, if you wanted to specify location, they would only accept “keymap coordinates” (page and grid).

    Amazingly enough, they are still in business, but for how long? I always wanted to own a Keymap, but they were just too darn expensive ($39 bones! Ahhh! http://keymaps.com/shop/product.cfm?ProductID=100023), when I could get a free map from AAA.

  4. They were a lot cheaper when I got mine, and I got an amazing amount of use out of it. I bet I still have it somewhere.

  5. Lanny will be back on a new radio station soon according to a Chronicle article. 92.1 FM


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