How to “Detroit” a Traffic Light: An Insider’s Guide

Posted: June 30, 2012 in prose
Tags: , , ,

There are several ways to sail through a traffic light like a true Detroiter. This is a how-to guide for drivers.

Whether you are new to Detroit or just visiting, these tips will help you operate your vehicle like a seasoned professional, navigating the streets of the Motor City with a true local’s disregard for “traffic laws” that might apply outside the city limits.

Note: This guide should not be read as an endorsement of Detroiting traffic lights or ignoring traffic laws. Please use the following list for entertainment purposes only.

Scenario 1: Accelerate through a long yellow. Speed up as you approach a yellow light from a distance. No big deal if you run a red; if you brake too early on a yellow light with traffic behind you, you are liable to be rear-ended by your tailgater, who intends to Detroit the light, too.

Scenario 2: Accelerate towards a red light, assuming it will turn green before you arrive at the intersection. This scenario is especially common late at night or in low-traffic situations. As you approach a red light, wait as long as possible to slam on your brakes, watching for it to turn green. If you are feeling especially bold, slow down a little and check the intersection for traffic. If there is no one in the vicinity, sail through the light, disregarding its present color. Congratulations, you just successfully Detroited that light!

Scenario 3: Sneak by on the right. Whether other cars are stopped at a red light or just traveling more slowly than you (e.g. at or near the speed limit), a good option to maintain your current speed and bypass dawdlers is to employ the far right lane, especially if that lane is usually used by parked cars. This can be considered a high-traffic version of Scenario 2. Bonus points if your subwoofers are bumping while you pass.

Scenario 4: Prioritize your turn. You approach a red light, planning to turn. Unfortunately, there is a car in the designated turn lane which has not yet completed its turn.  Fortunately, for a Detroiter any open lane can be used as an alternate turn lane. Pull up alongside the car and if it does not turn by the time you arrive at the intersection, simply pull around in front of it, completing your planned turn. A true Detroiter never waits. Another intersection, another successfully Detroited light!

Note: This guide should not be read as an endorsement of Detroiting traffic lights or ignoring traffic laws. Please use the preceding tips for entertainment purposes only.

a traffic light, Detroit intersection

Detroit this light!                          photo by lindspetrol (flickr) CC BY-ND 2.0

  1. Styln says:

    I’m a True Detroiter, my family settled here in 1844 (no paved streets, cars, traffic lights or laws to DETROIT). I don’t and I’m sure other True Detroiter’s don’t make a regular habit of disregarding city traffic laws/ordinances.

    The only truly bad driving I’ve encountered on Detroit streets is when True Suburbanites come to Detroit for bicycling, baseball, football and other events that attract those from outlying areas.

    Whether for entertainment purposes or whatever your intentions, I don’t appreciate the connotation that the streets of My City are lawless and that True Detroiter’s have no regard for the safety of others.

    Detroit is not a perfectly manicured suburban enclave with police on every corner, but we are comprised of mainly hardworking, self respecting citizens who are proud of being from Detroit. Our streets are not fodder for your entertainment purposes.


    • Katie DT says:

      Thanks for your comment, and for your interest in this subject. I am also a True Detroiter, and my family has been here for five generations.

      This post is a satire about driving in Detroit. It pokes fun at some of the stereotypes that suburbanites bring in to the city with them, as well as some of my own experiences of driving in the city.

      By no means do I think that this is a true representation of how people do drive or should drive in the city. I do not believe Detroit to be lawless, and I know many Detroiters who show the highest regard for the safety of others in their community. I love living here.

      Thanks again for reading and for taking the time to comment!

  2. Justin Observation says:

    While it may been written with satirical intent, I’ve worked in Detroit for the last decade, and the days I go by without seeing at least one of the aforementioned maneuvers are few and far between. If you haven’t noticed these on a frequent enough basis to be able to appreciate the joke intended, then you are probably one of the people on the road paying more attention to their cell phones than their surroundings, because I can think of few other legitimate reasons for that level of Mr Magoo level unawareness of the reality of that sort of driving. It’s something that I see and have to deal with on a regular basis, and I for one appreciate her ability to a least wring a little humor from what is otherwise a rather frustrating driving experience for this ‘visiting suburbanite’. As someone who has traveled the county I can say that at least we don’t have the cab presence of some of the other big cities. Now THERE is some scary driving.

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