New Jersey traffic light stuck red? Try this trick to make it green

Most of us have experienced this before. It is late at night, you are driving and you come to a red light.

You are not on the main highway so you expected to catch the red one. Sometimes, if it’s late at night, the light can change right away for you. Other times, you may just have to wait for the crosswalk to cycle out before the light changes.

Then there are those times when you just sit there for what seems like an eternity. Sometimes up to five minutes, but this light refuses to change. What makes this even more frustrating is if it’s a light you’re familiar with and know about how long it takes to change under normal circumstances.

At this point, you start to get upset. How long will this light last? There was absolutely no one else on the road at the time, and therefore, no reason why the light shouldn’t change.

Red light camera

Red light camera (Craig Allen, Townsquare Media)

It’s at this point that you can start looking for a police car to see if you’re ready to turn on the light. Maybe you’ll honk your horn a bit before you leave, just to point out that it’s been long enough.

And then you just go. Illegal crossing an intersection with a red light facing all of you because the stubborn thing refused to recognize you were there, or the timer was just broken.

It’s a dilemma we all face in New Jersey, and it happens most often at night, when very few cars are driving. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen during the day, because it certainly does. But after an unnecessarily long wait, when do you take a chance and go for it?

red light camera in Pohatcong, NJ

Town Square Press Photo

This very scenario happened at a fire in my area, with the problem getting worse and worse. It was a small road crossing the main freeway, a typical scenario when these lights don’t change. And, as you might have guessed, this problem seemed to get worse when there were fewer cars on the road.

So naturally, people went and talked about this intersection on social media, because that’s what we’re doing these days. In fact, it went even further when a certain official noticed the wire and called in a team to inspect the fire at that intersection.

This particular light setup had these traffic sensors that look like pole-mounted cameras. These are the kind of sensors that are often mistaken for a red light camera (red light cameras, BTW, are illegal in New Jersey).

Red light cameras

Red light cameras (Dan Kitwood, Getty Images)

Upon completion of the inspection, it was determined that there were no issues with the equipment at this intersection. The only issue they noticed was that some of those traffic sensor lenses were a little dirty.

Apparently, over time, dust and soot in the air can fog up the front of the sensors, making it harder to detect traffic. Who would have thought?

And the solution was even simpler. All the crews had to do was wipe them clean again. Can you imagine someone up there with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels wiping those things up? Of course, I don’t know for sure what they use to clean them, but at least it’s an easy fix.

Now there was another thing we learned other than those sensors that get dirty from time to time. There’s a trick you can try to get these sensors to see you so the light changes.

Survey finds US traffic lights inefficient

Think Stock

Do you go back and forth?

A reasonable thought, and on occasion, it might work. There’s always the possibility that a vehicle is just far enough out of the sensor’s view to be picked up, so this one is worth a try.

But that’s not what we were told. This trick does not involve moving.

Car horn – horn

Mike Brant – Townsquare Media

Do you honk?

Since these sensors don’t work from sound, it’s probably safe to say that it wouldn’t work.

Especially if it’s late at night, honking your horn is just obnoxious. Especially if you are at one of those little crossroads with a nearby neighborhood.

Shining car high beam

Elenathewise / Mike Brant via Canva

Use your headlights

Basically, all you have to do is flash your high beams or turn your lights on and off. By doing this, you make it easier to detect the sensor, increasing the likelihood of turning that light green.

And it makes sense. Even if the sensor gets dirty, flashing your lights at night allows it to “see” you better and will send the signal to change your light to green.

Since I learned this I have tried it with stubborn light. And you know what? In fact, the light has changed. I don’t know the name of the worker who shared this fun little fact with us, but I thank him.

Red and green lights on blue sky background


So now, the next time you find yourself in this situation, try these headlights.

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