Even experienced drivers can be thrown for a loop when they pull up to an intersection and find that the traffic light is out. While uncommon, traffic lights do malfunction sometimes. It’s important to know how to behave because a malfunctioning light or problem with the electrical grid is no excuse for negligent driving. Fortunately, California traffic laws are clear on how motorists should respond at a broken light.
How to Recognize a Broken Traffic Light
In most cases, traffic lights will indicate they are not working properly. If the traffic signal has red flashing lights, treat it the same as a stop sign. If you see a yellow flashing light, yield to traffic. In the case of a blackout, the traffic light will not work at all and have no lights displayed on the signal.
What to Do At a Broken Traffic Light
Many drivers are confused about which traffic laws are applicable when a traffic light has stopped working in all directions. According to the California Driver Handbook, an intersection with a blacked-out traffic signal should be treated as if there are stop signs in all directions.
When approaching an intersection with a broken stop light, the right-of-way is determined just as it would be at a stop sign intersection. You are required to stop fully and proceed only when safe to do so according to regular right-of-way traffic laws.
Dangers of Broken Intersections
Don’t make the mistake of speeding through the intersection and treating it as a “freebie.” In addition to being dangerous, you can still be cited. Police officers will not accept that the light was blacked-out as an excuse for running through the intersection.
The chances of a crash occurring near an intersection with a broken traffic light are more than doubled. In fact, many fatal crashes have occurred in California due to drivers speeding through blacked-out traffic signals. This means it’s important to stay on your guard and proceed through the intersection with care.
If you have been injured in an accident due to a malfunctioning traffic light, it’s important to explore your legal rights. Depending on your case, the city or the other driver may be responsible for your injuries. Contact Needham, Kepner & Fish for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case.