Impatient drivers turn traffic lights into aggression. I call it the Miami Millisecond | Opinion

A strange phenomenon happens once you cross the county line into Miami-Dade. It’s called the “Miami Millisecond” and apparently afflicts thousands of aggravated drivers each day.

At least, that’s my experience. The phenomenon also takes place elsewhere, from Boca Raton to blip-on-the-map towns, but Miamians do it faster and more often.

The Miami Millisecond, as I have dubbed it, happens when you’re stopped at a traffic light. As soon as the light turns green, the driver behind you waits a barely a fraction of a second honking their horn at you. The message is: If you’re planning to wait a full second to step on the gas, you’re too late.

It feels as if drivers infected with Miami Millisecond Syndrome are just sitting with their hands on the horn, waiting for the moment they can antagonize the person in front of them. Miami drivers are aggressive, as we all know, but this? This is the stuff of high-blood pressure, increased stress hormones and even road rage for perpetrators and victims. It turns everyday citizens into blood-thirsty combatants of the highway. Or maybe it’s caused by a magnetic field that begins at the Ives Dairy Road exit ramp on Interstate 95.

MMS hurts everybody. To those who engage in it, just say no.

Having met a MMS driver, I’ll admit they sometimes do have a point. I, too, have been stuck behind oblivious drivers checking their cellphones. It already takes too long to get anywhere in South Florida; sorry, I cannot wait for you to post that car selfie on Instagram.

If Interstate-95 wasn’t in a perpetual state of congestion (how is bumper-to-bumber traffic possible at 11 p.m.?), if U.S. 1 didn’t feel like a bottleneck and driving on the Palmetto Expressway wasn’t a dystopian version of Mario Kart, perhaps Miami drivers would be kinder to each other.

Perhaps not, though finally synchronizing Miami-Dade’s traffic lights, as promised more than 20 years ago, wouldn’t hurt. In March, the county revealed that the company hired to work on 2,900 traffic intersections had fallen behind and a new firm was coming on board.

A 2023 county report found that 22% of intersections had faulty mechanisms that are supposed to trigger an accelerated green light when a vehicle pulls up. So maybe the Miami Millisecond isn’t so much of a problem as it is the symptom of a more serious Miami malaise.

It’s the physical — and audible — manifestation of the frustration Miamians feel every time they are promised a traffic improvement that never materializes. Or maybe I’m giving these drivers too much credit.

Regardless, I’m as exasperated when an impatient drivers blows their horn behind me as I am every time there’s a delay in a transit project.

Take the planned extension of the Metromover from downtown Miami to South Beach. We have been waiting for decades for a public transit connection between the Beach and the mainland. In February, the Miami Beach Commission voted to oppose the extension after some residents complained about it. The vote is symbolic given this is a county project but it could bring on well-funded legal challenges, the Herald reported.

There are simply too many cars on the road — something Miami Beach city staff warned their elected officials about at a meeting last year, the Herald reported. You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to get that.

If we didn’t have to drive everywhere, if our public transit lived up to our “big city” reputation, would people simply take out their aggression on their fellow passengers on trains and bus rapid transit instead? The Miami Millisecond could morph into rushing people out of the Metromover or Metrorail doors as soon as they opens

Either way, we may not be able to change Miamians. But we must change Miami traffic.

Isadora Rangel is a member of the Miami Herald Editorial Board.