Most of us have experienced this before. It's late at night, you're driving along, and you come to a traffic signal.

You're not on the main highway so you expected to catch the red. Sometimes, if it's late at night, the light might change for you right away. Other times, you might just have to wait for the crosswalk cycle to finish before the light changes.

Then there are those times when you're just sitting there for what seems like an eternity. Sometimes maybe as long as five minutes, but that light is refusing to change. What makes this even more frustrating is if it's a light you're familiar with and know how long it approximately takes to change under normal circumstances.

At this point, you start to get annoyed. How much longer is this light going to take? There was absolutely nobody else on the road at that time, and therefore, no reason for the light not to change.

Red Light Camera
Red light camera (Craig Allen, Townsquare Media)

It's at this point you may start to look around for a police car to see if you're clear to run the light. Maybe you'll beep the horn for a bit before going, just to make the point that it's been long enough.

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

It's a dilemma all of us in New Jersey are bound to face, and it most commonly occurs at night at a time when very few cars are traveling. Now that's not to say it doesn't happen during the day, because it certainly does. But after an unnecessarily long wait, at what point do you take a chance and just run it?

red light camera in Pohatcong, NJ
Townsquare Media photo

This very scenario happened at a light in my area, with the issue becoming increasingly worse. It was a small road crossing the main highway, a typical scenario for when these lights don't change. And, as you might've guessed, this problem seemed to be worse when fewer cars were on the road.

So naturally, people went to vent about this intersection on social media, because that's what we do in today's day and age. In fact, it went even further when a certain official noticed the thread and got a crew out to inspect the light at this intersection.

This particular light setup had those traffic sensors that resemble cameras mounted on the pole. They're the kind of sensors that commonly get mistaken for a red light camera (red light cameras, BTW, are illegal in NJ).

Red light cameras
Red light cameras (Dan Kitwood, Getty Images)

After the inspection was complete, it was determined that there was nothing wrong with the equipment at this intersection. The only issue they noticed was 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 for them to detect traffic. Who would've thought?

And the solution was even simpler. All the crews had to do was wipe them down so they were clean once again. Can you picture someone up there with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels wiping these things clean? 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 aside from those sensors getting dirty every once in a while. There's a trick you can try to get these sensors to see you so the light does change.

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Do you roll back and forth?

A reasonable thought, and on occasion, this might work. There's always the chance a vehicle might be just enough out of the sensor's sight to be picked up, so this one's worth a try.

But that's not the trick we were told. This trick doesn't involve moving.

Car horn - beeping horn
Mike Brant - Townsquare Media

Do you beep your horn?

Being these sensors don't work off of sound, it's probably a safe bet to say this wouldn't work.

Especially if it's late at night, blowing the horn is just plain obnoxious. Especially if you're at one of these smaller crossroads with a neighborhood nearby.

Car shining highbeams
Elenathewise / Mike Brant via Canva

Use your headlights

Basically, all you need to do is flash your high beams or turn your lights on and off. By doing that, you're making it easier for the sensor to detect you, thus, increasing the likelihood of tripping that light to green.

And it makes logical sense. Even with the sensor getting dirty, flashing your lights at night allows it to "see" you better and will send the signal to change your light to green.

Ever since I've learned of this, I've given it a try at a stubborn light. And you know what? It actually got the light to change. I don't know the name of the worker who shared that little fun fact with us, but I thank him.

Red and green traffic lights against blue sky backgrounds

So now the next time you're in this situation, give those headlights a try.

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