Ask a Trooper: Intersections with traffic lights out

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“ASK A TROOPER” by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

 Ask a Trooper with Sgt. Jesse GrabowQuestion: I just wanted to suggest a topic for your Ask a Trooper column in the paper, and on the radio:  What are the rules when a traffic light is out, because of a power outage for example?  I treat them as a four-way stop, which I believe is correct.  It seemed, however, that not everybody that was driving through this intersection agreed with me.  My daughter nearly got hit in the intersection from a driver that felt they had the right of way.

 Answer: Due to recent storms, many areas experienced power outages where motorists encountered inoperative traffic control signals.

 Traffic control signals are used at intersections where traffic volume is high. Signals promote safety and orderly flow of traffic.

If a traffic signal is not functioning, treat the intersection as you would an uncontrolled intersection. At an intersection without STOP or YIELD signs (uncontrolled intersection), slow down and prepare to stop. Yield to vehicles already in the intersection or entering it in front of you. Always yield to the car that arrived first. If you and another driver reach the intersection at the same time, yield to the car is on your right. If there is a lot of traffic at the intersection, it will naturally begin to function as a four-way stop.

 At a flashing red traffic light, treat this as you would a stop sign. Some traffic control signals will be defaulted to flash red when they don’t work correctly or if the power to it had been interrupted. Come to a complete stop, yield to vehicles and pedestrians who reach the intersection before you, and proceed when the intersection is clear.

 A flashing yellow light or arrow means “caution.” Proceed through the intersection with caution. Yield the right-of-way to vehicles and pedestrians already in the intersection. Vehicles turning left or making a U-turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles approaching from the opposite direction so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard.

 In the event that the power will not be restored in a timely manner, city, county or state officials may set up temporary/portable stop signs or signals. Law enforcement might also be present to direct traffic safely at intersections.

If you approach an intersection where the traffic lights are not working, use good judgement and be cautious that other drivers might not follow the law and rules when it comes to intersection safety.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at [email protected].


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