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Polis Report

Jammed Circuit

By Cecily Barnes

We all listen trustingly to those traffic reporters, changing our commute route as needed, never doubting their veracity--until the one morning we glide down the onramp with pure dread, only to see ... clear freeway for miles! For the first time we wonder, no helicopters in sight, where those traffic reporters get their information anyway.

As it turns out, radio programs gather most news of car fires and sluggish traffic from trusty airborne reporters and Metro Traffic Control or Shadow Traffic, information epicenters with CHP-linked computers. However, some of those traffic reports stem from the unconfirmed testimony of cellular callers.

If someone reports "a fender bender or stall, we go on the air and say we heard it from a listener," confirms KLIV's Jane McMillan. Michelle Henegan of Metro Traffic agrees: "If someone said a tanker car exploded on the freeway, heck no," we wouldn't report it "but if they said traffic is backed up on Highway 24, well then sure."

Do ungracious commuters sometimes fabricate traffic fallacies to redirect drivers who might congest their trip home? Do bored phone phreaks with car phones occasionally decide to indulge in a prank? Well, hopefully not, the radio folks say. The incongruities have more to do with a time delay between information received and information delivered. "And that's not erroneous reporting," justifies KLIV News Director Jane McMillan, "it's just the nature of time."

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From the August 8-14, 1996 issue of Metro

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