In a flash!
Every now and then you find yourself in a rare situation not knowing exactly what to do. This seems to be the case whenever I see traffic lights out of service. That was the case recently. Drivers seemed to be confused as they ended up sitting at the intersection wondering when it was their turn to enter and exit. Do you know what to do if the traffic lights go out?
In some cases the traffic lights will all begin to flash the red light in all directions. The easiest way to deal with this is to treat this situation as an all-way stop. I watched as traffic at all sides stopped and sat there with drivers staring at each other wondering if a sign from above would tell them who would go next. It’s not like the drivers could read each other’s minds; nor should they really want to read the nasty thoughts they were having about each other. However, understanding the rules for this situation could have made things a little simpler for everyone involved.
It can actually be an easy process if this happens. It falls into understanding ‘right of way’ rules. If the traffic lights are all flashing red or are completely out of service with no lights flashing at all, the first driver who arrives and stops first should be given the right of way. If two vehicles arrive and stop at the same time the driver on the right should be given the right of way. It’s about driver courtesy; that’s why I said should. You’ll never have the right of way if the other driver doesn’t give it to you. The same would apply at an all-way stop.
There can also be situations where one direction has flashing red lights and the cross traffic has flashing amber, or yellow, lights. This seems to confuse drivers as well. Flashing amber lights have a different meaning than a solid amber light. The flashing amber light essentially means to proceed with caution. I’ve seen drivers slow down when they approach the flashing amber, which usually means the driver facing the flashing red light will often pull out because they’re thinking the approaching driver has a flashing red light as well. I’m sure you can see the confusion slowing down on flashing amber lights can cause.
If you’re facing a flashing amber light, continue through the intersection but be aware that another vehicle may enter the intersection from either side at any time. Be prepared to stop or sound your horn as required to avoid the collision.
Knowing what to do if the traffic lights go out or start to flash can help you and other drivers make it through safely, in a flash.