Traffic lights can go out for many reasons. Inclement weather, electrical failures, and accidents are three ways traffic control signals and/or the structures that support and power them can sustain damage. The rule for when traffic lights are out is you must come to a complete stop at intersections or roadways where the traffic lights are not on. You must treat the light as a stop sign. If it is a four-way intersection, you must treat it as a four-way stop. The same rule applies to other roadways that have a light that is out.
The Importance of Stopping When Traffic Signals Are Not Working
According to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 36,000 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2018. Many of these accidents can be attributed to speeding, reckless driving, driver inattention, and a lack of driver training, especially in the areas of road laws such as understanding traffic control signs and signals, failures to yield, and safely sharing the road with others, especially at intersections.
Traffic lights and stop signs are important traffic control devices that are designed to help control the flow of traffic and make our roads safer. They also help us to plan better while driving and remove the need for any communication between drivers on the road. As long as everyone follows established rules, norms, and practices while driving, everyone knows what to do, and will have a better idea of what others will do, wherever they are on the road. This includes knowing what to do and knowing what to expect from others when approaching or crossing a roadway that has a traffic light or stop sign.
The same applies to yield signs and other traffic control signs and signals. Without them, it would become difficult for drivers to know when they can or cannot proceed on or across a roadway and what others on the road will likely do next. However, it is not uncommon to come across a traffic light that is out. Electrical failures, storms, fires, vandalism, crashes, and other events can all lead to the lights going out at an intersection or along a section of the road.
When this happens, many drivers are left wondering what they should do next. The rule for when traffic signals are out is to come to a complete stop before entering the crosswalk and, if none, then before the intersection, and then enter proceeding with caution through the intersection, according to the traffic rules of the Understanding Uncontrolled Intersections
In the past, intersections that did not have a stop sign, yield sign, traffic light, or a traffic officer directing traffic were called “uncontrolled intersections.” When approaching these intersections, they must be treated as though a stop sign is present.
The rule for when traffic lights are out is to come to a stop at the light and to treat the intersection or roadway as a regular stop. If it is a four-way intersection, treat it like a four-way stop. If it is a two- or three-way intersection, treat it as a two- or three-way stop, respectively. The same right-of-way rules also apply, such as allowing vehicles in or at the stop first to proceed first and allowing the vehicle on the right to proceed if two vehicles arrive at the stop at the same time.
Learn More About Your Rights to Compensation After a Collision Due to a Traffic Light Outage
The legal team at Rosenberg & Gluck, L.L.P. is just a call away, and we can be reached at (631) 451-7900. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you were involved in a car crash or suffered injuries or losses in a collision. A traffic collision at an intersection that does not have working lights may seem like an ambiguous case, but the law is clear and such intersections must be stopped at. If you have grounds for a claim, we can help you file for damages and compensation.