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What To Do When Traffic Lights Are Out

August 10, 2021 by Steven M. Gursten

What To Do When Traffic Lights Are Out

It is important to know what to do when traffic lights are out at an intersection. Michigan law requires that drivers treat it as a 4-way stop, which means stopping before entering the intersection, following the right-of-way rules and exercising “ordinary care” as you drive through the intersection.

Do you know what to do when traffic lights are out at an intersection?

Here is what to do when traffic lights are out at an intersection that you are approaching: (1) stop before entering the intersection; (2) yield the right of way to vehicles that will be an “immediate hazard” to you; and (3) “exercise ordinary care” when you do drive through the intersection. (MCL 257.649(4))

In other words, according to the Michigan State Police, when the signal are not working at an intersection, drivers are required to treat the intersection “as a four way stop.”

Michigan law on what to do when signals are not working at an intersection

Michigan law specifically states that when an intersection’s signal shows “no colored lights or colored lighted arrows, exhibits a combination of colored lights or colored lighted arrows that fails to clearly indicate the assignment of right of way, or the signals are otherwise malfunctioning,” then the “driver of a vehicle approaching” the intersection must do all of the following:

  • “Stop at a clearly marked stop line, or, if there is no clearly marked stop line, stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, if there is no crosswalk, stop before entering the intersection.”
  • “Yield the right of way to all vehicles in the intersection or approaching on an intersecting road, if those vehicles will constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection.”
  • “Exercise ordinary care while proceeding through the intersection.” (MCL 257.649(4))

What are the right-of-way rules when traffic lights are out at an intersection?

Here are the right-of-way rules when traffic lights are out: (1) approaching drivers must yield the right of way to drivers who have already entered the intersection; and (2) drivers must yield the right of way to the vehicle on their right when they both enter the intersection simultaneously from different streets. (MCL 257.649(1) and (2))

The old law on what to do when signals aren’t working

Prior to 2018, Michigan law did not specifically address the situation where the signals at an intersection were not working or malfunctioning. This led to confusion and misinformation for drivers. Lawmakers provided the rules stated above in Public Act 109 of 2018, which took effect July 23, 2018.

Injured in a crash at an intersection when traffic lights are out? Call the auto accident attorneys at Michigan Auto Law

Intersection car accidents are unfortunately common. If you were injured in a car crash at an intersection when the signals were not working and have questions about your legal rights and your right to collect pain and suffering compensation, economic damages and auto No-Fault insurance benefits, you can speak to an experienced auto accident lawyer at (800) 777-0028  for a free consultation. You can also get help from an experienced No-Fault insurance attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.

(Source: Michigan State Police, Traffic Laws FAQs, Rules of the Road, “How do I treat a dark traffic signal at an intersection?”)

What To Do When Traffic Lights Are Out

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