The Watchdog

Mixed signals lead to mix-up over traffic ticket for left turn

Welcome to Waldo and the intersection of 75th Street and Wornall Road — but watch for signs.
Welcome to Waldo and the intersection of 75th Street and Wornall Road — but watch for signs. Special to The Star

The problem

The Watchdog reads the sign and sees the light — the street sign and the traffic light.

Brea Kleitz of Overland Park does too.

She contacted the Dog about a traffic ticket she had received for turning left onto Wornall Road from westbound 75th Street. Kleitz said she had turned left with the traffic signal’s green arrow.

A Kansas City police officer stopped her, though, and told her that a sign one short block east of Wornall, at 75th and Broadway, prohibited left turns onto Wornall for westbound 75th Street traffic between 4 and 6 p.m.

The officer told her a traffic sign trumps a signal if they conflict.

The answer

Grant Ruark, operations sergeant in the Kansas City Police Department’s traffic division, dug into it and told The Dog that the signs — posted back to back, one each for eastbound and westbound traffic — apply to Broadway, not to Wornall.

“She has every opportunity to schedule a court date, take her information down there and speak to a judge,” Ruark said of Kleitz.

She did so, minus talking to the judge.

“I went to court on the 5th of January and pleaded not guilty,” Kleitz wrote in an email. “So I had court (Feb. 2) and never talked to the judge. After being there for 45 minutes he said my case was dismissed.”

Although her problem is resolved, the episode raised a question of interest to the Handsome Hound: Might a little bitty sign override a great big traffic signal?

Ruark didn’t know, but public works spokesman Sean Demory said signs overrule signals when signs prohibit turns between specified times (such as 4 to 6 p.m.) or altogether (the no left turn symbol) or when signals malfunction.

But conflicts are rare, he said.

“Our engineers work to make sure that signage coordinates with signals as a matter of course. There’s no real purpose in installing a sign that actively contradicts a signal.”

This is the Watchdog “signing” off.

Do you have a problem or a question about a public issue? Write to the Watchdog, The Kansas City Star, Newsroom, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108, or send email to watchdog@kcstar.com. Include your name, phone number and city of residence.

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