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Traffic signals damaged in intersection crashes cost Phoenix millions of dollars

PHOENIX - On your daily commute, can you remember how many intersections you drive through? 

"You take them for granted," said City of Phoenix's Traffic Signal Superintendent Vincent Gigliotti. "And that's kind of the way we want it because the systems always work." 

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You don't notice the intersections or what makes them work -- until they do not work. But, most of the time, technology is not failing -- drivers are literally taking out the technology by crashing into it. 

The city said that over the last two years, they have had roughly 800 knockdowns. That is when a vehicle takes out one of the three critical parts of what makes an intersection function. 

"What we call the trifecta: where you've hit the cabinet, the pole and the meter pedestal...you're looking on the average of anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000."

With the roughly 800 knockdowns over the last two years, Gigliotti said the cost is $3,500,000.

ABC15 went inside the Traffic Signal Shop to take a look at why these items are so costly. 

"No cabinet gets put out on the street until it's tested here by our personnel," Gigliotti explained.

That testing is a minimum of 40 hours to ensure the timing of each signal change is on track. If something does go wrong, this device is speedy enough to correct it. 

"This device right here will catch it faster than you can blink," Gigliotti said.

So, understanding the inside may help you understand why scenes where drivers crash into the technology is also crushing to city officials.

"We'll get the call for an accident and it's usually right after the fire department gets here," explained Intelligence Transportation Specialist Mike Pederson. 

He said he has personally gotten one of these crash calls well over 100 times. The cause can be anything from distracted driving, drunk driving, an attempt to avoid a crash in the intersection, etc. 

"We have equipment scattered about and it's kind of our job to put everything back together and that it runs how it's supposed to run," Pederson said. 

The cost of labor like construction crews, utility workers, and all the equipment that needs to be replaced is included in the bill.

The city said that the cost should fall on the driver's insurance. But, if they don't have insurance like they should or the insurance takes too long with the payment, often times the city is stuck with it. 

"The city doesn't get to recoup, I will say, pennies on the dollar...honestly, that's what happens," Gigliotti said. 

Regardless, the technology has to be fixed as quickly as possible. Crews do not want another accident to happen when a signal is out.

It's just another reason why officials hope that drivers will pay more attention while on the roadways. 

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