What Are Traffic Laws When a Traffic Light Is Out in California?

Pulling up to an intersection with a broken traffic light can be confusing. Though uncommon, traffic lights can malfunction. It’s important to know what to do if a traffic signal is not working because a blacked-out traffic light is no excuse to disregard traffic laws or for negligent driving. Don't worry, our traffic attorneys at Needham Kepner & Fish LLP will explain everything you need to do when a traffic signal is not working.

California traffic laws control how motorists should respond at a broken traffic light:

What to Do if Traffic Lights Are Not Working

  • Red flashing traffic light: If the traffic signal is flashing red, drivers should treat it the same as a stop sign.
  • Yellow flashing traffic light: If the traffic signal is flashing yellow, drivers should slow down and yield.
  • Blacked-out traffic signals: If a traffic signal is out of order, drivers should stop and treat it as if there are stop signs in all directions. Whichever driver approached the signal first determines the right-of-way. If two vehicles stopped at the same time, it would be at a stop sign intersection.

How to Recognize a Broken Traffic Light

In most cases, you can tell that a traffic light is not working correctly by the way it looks. The traffic signal may be flashing red or yellow. In some cases, the traffic light may be blacked out. In the case of a blackout, the traffic light will not work at all and have no lights displayed on the signal.

What Not to Do at a Broken Stoplight

An intersection with a broken traffic light can increase the chance of a car crash. When you come across a broken stoplight, don’t speed through the intersection. It is dangerous and against the law. Unfortunately, many fatal crashes have occurred because of speeding through blacked-out traffic signals. If a traffic signal is out of order, you should stay alert and proceed through the intersection with care.

Injured in an Accident Caused by a California Traffic Light?

If you have been injured in a car accident caused by California traffic lights, speak with an auto accident lawyer to discuss your legal rights. Depending on your case, another driver or the city may be responsible for your injuries. Call Needham Kepner & Fish LLP at (408) 716-1668 or contact us online for a free consultation. We handle personal injury cases throughout Santa Clara County, San Mateo County and Alameda County.